Wine and Spirit Ambassador Award
Sponsored by The Balvenie
2014 Winner: Gerard Basset, Hotel TerraVina
Described as a master of his trade and one of the best in the world, Gerard Basset is an inspirational figure in the wine industry. He has not only made it his life's work to be an authority on wine, but he does all he can to educate and enthuse others too.
Basset's achievements are too considerable to list here, but among his many accolades he was named World Sommelier Champion in 2010, Best International Sommelier for French wines in 1992 and Best Sommelier in Europe in 1996. He is the only person in the world to hold the titles of Master Sommelier, Master of Wine and Wine MBA at the same time.
Basset is also no stranger to the Cateys, having won the Special Award in 2010.
Furthermore, he has been recognised by the establishment, having been awarded an OBE for services to the hospitality industry in 2011. But accolades aren't what drives Basset.
Above all else he has sought to make wine service more professional and less pretentious. He works tirelessly to improve the standard of wine service, inspiring many along the way.
As a co-founder of Hotel du Vin, Basset did much to demystify the world of wine and open it up to a larger audience. It is a philosophy he has carried forward with even more gusto at Hotel TerraVina, where he has continued to make wine accessible while building a successful and respected business.
A key aspect of Basset's career has been his skill for discovering new talent. In fact he has spent as much time mentoring and inspiring new talent as he has driving his own businesses.
His list of protégés reads like a who's who of the wine world, with Xavier Rousset, Ronan Sayburn and Eric Zweibel among his students.
Though he's been described as one of the world's greatest authorities on wine, Basset still works on educating himself as well as others.
He is president of the Court of Master Sommeliers Europe, technical director of the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale and has just been selected as honorary president of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. Basset has even embarked on another wine course: an MSc in wine from the world-renowned International Organisation of Vine and Wine.
The judges were unanimous in their opinion that this humble and modest man was the only choice as the inaugural winner of the Wine and Spirit Ambassador Award. They described him as an inspiration, whose enviable collection of awards is for a very good reason, which he is deservedly adding to.
What the judges said
"Gerard has played a leading role in the development of wines and spirits for the hospitality industry. His thirst for knowledge is matched only by his enthusiasm in promoting the sector's further development through training and education of the next generation."
"We chose the winner because he is unique when you take into account his qualifications as a Master of Wine with a Wine MBA, and a Sommelier World Champion. As a colleague of his at the Academy of Food and Wine Service, I can attest to his commitment to education, training and mentoring."
Craig Bancroft, Northcote Group
Gerard Basset, Hotel TerraVina, the New Forest
Andrew Fisher, The Abbey hotel, Bath
Xavier Rousset, Texture and 28Â°-50Â°
John Croft, executive director, The Academy of Food and Wine Service
Andrew McKenzie, managing director, the Vineyard Group
Ronan Sayburn, owner, The RS Wine Academy
Marc Verstringhe, chairman, MESV International