Ask anybody in hospitality who they think of upon hearing the word “wine” and the answer will be unanimous: Gérard Basset .
Basset, the co-founder of Hotel du Vin and now co-owner, with wife, Nina, of Hotel Terravina in the New Forest, is the only person in the world to hold the combined titles of Master of Wine, Master Sommelier, Wine MBA and, as of April 2010, World’s Best Sommelier.
Basset’s victory in the World’s Best Sommelier competition came at the sixth time of asking – and followed three runners-up prizes. Upon finally scooping the top prize, Basset admitted it was “the hardest thing I have ever done”.
French-born Basset came to England in 1984 to watch his football team – St Etienne – play Liverpool. He fell in love with Merseyside, decided to stay and got a job first as a dishwasher then as a waiter.
Frustrated by not being able to become a sommelier, Basset returned to France and took a chef’s course at the Unifort adult education college in Beaujolais. He then cooked at restaurants and chain hotels in Lyon and Marseille. This knowledge of the kitchen was invaluable experience.
In 1988, he came back to England, but this time to join renowned country house hotel,Chewton Glen in New Milton, Hampshire as a sommelier, quickly rising to head sommelier.
At Chewton Glen, Basset met Robin Hutson and the pair went on to launch Hotel du Vin in Winchester in 1994. The boutique chain grew to six hotels before selling to Malmaison owner MWB Group for £66.4m in October 2004.
Basset – who made £2.4m from the sale – took some time out from the hospitality business, but returned in 2008 to open Hotel TerraVina in the New Forest near Southampton with wife Nina (who he also met at Chewton Glen).
Basset serves as the worldwide vice president at the Court of Master Sommeliers and is director of the Academy of Food and Wine Service.
On this dedicated page we round up all the news, analysis, profiles and video interviews with Gerard Basset.
Wine master classes
Terravina on the web