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Gerard Basset to compete for World's best sommelier

Published:  08 September, 2009

Gerard Basset MW, owner of Hotel TerraVina in Hampshire, has been selected to represent the UK in the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI) World's Best Sommelier Competition, being held on April 10-16, 2010 in Chile.

Basset has taken part in the competition on six previous occasions, coming runners-up on three times. This time he is even more determined to win. "I wouldn't go through the trauma of competing if I didn't want to do well," he said, "It's now all about my preparation. It's a big commitment - I will put in about 20 hours a week from now until next April - but it's a huge title to win."

Basset beat off competition from Matthieu Longuere, head sommelier at London's La Trompette, and Nicolas Clerc of Pont de la Tour for the UK prize. All three were able to take part in the final selection in that they met the strict entry criteria  - namely that they have previously won a national competition, have worked in the UK for over three years and are able to complete the competition in a second language.

The qualifying competition, organised by the Academy of Food & Wine, was judged at London's Royal Garden Hotel on September 7 and was judged by by Paul Breach and Nick Scade of the Academy's executive committee and Brian Julyan, chief executive of the Court of Master Sommeliers Worldwide.

The three candidates were asked to complete a tough questionnaire, a blind tasting, match two white wines with sushi, decant and serve a bottle of red wine and clear away in just eight minutes as well as be interviewed. "It was tough, but that is how it should be," said Gerard. "I do get nervous too, but that's not a bad thing, it's a question of controlling those nerves."

The World's best Sommelier competition attracts candidates from each of the ASI's 41 member countries. It will consist of two days of written and practical exams, including blind tastings and service role plays to test the candidates' knowledge of wine, spirits, and other beverages, cigars, and food and wine pairing, as well as their service skills to determine the top three candidates for the final competition. The three finalists will compete in a public final round and the winner announced at a gala dinner the same evening.

Basset is the only person in the world who is a Master of Wine, Master Sommelier and who has the Wine MBA. He attended the Lycee Albert Camus, School in Firminy, France, and, after training in Lyon, he moved to England quickly becoming Head Sommelier at Chewton Glen, the Michelin-starred hotel in Hampshire. In 1989, he won UK Sommelier of the Year, in 1992 the Best International Sommelier for French Wines (Paris), and in 1996 the Best Sommelier of Europe. In 1988 he qualified as a Master of Wine.