Liquid Icons – the wine research and content company founded by the late sommelier Gerard Basset and Lewis Chester – has announced the launch of the Golden Vines Awards to recognise fine wine producers and support diversity and inclusion-related wine education funding programmes all over the world.
Two Golden Vines Diversity Scholarship, Internship & Mentorship programmes will be funded through an auction at the inaugural awards ceremony at Annabel's private members' club in Mayfair, London on 7 October 2021.
It was announced in January that the Gerard Basset Wine Education Charitable Foundation – set up in memory of the Hotel du Vin co-founder and former World's Best Sommelier who passed away in 2019 – would fund learning and career opportunities for young professionals with a focus on diversity and inclusion. It has been confirmed this will include two scholarships for aspiring Black and ethnic minority students wishing to undertake the Masters of Wine and Master Sommelier programmes.
The Golden Vines Awards will be voted on by members of the industry, with polling open from 8 March. Award categories will include Best Fine Wine Producer, Best Rising Star, an Innovation Award and a Hall of Fame Award for a living individual to recognise lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the production of fine wine, or for outstanding service to the sector.
2020 Michelin Sommelier of the Year Marc Almert will be head sommelier on the night, while Mauro Colagreco of the three-Michelin-starred Mirazur in Menton, France, will oversee the menu.
The evening is hoped to raise £1m for the foundation. Around £110,000 of this will fund the two scholarships. Open to candidates from all over the world and worth up to £55,000 each, the scholarships will cover the costs of the courses and exams, as well as loss of earnings during their work placements, which will take place at domaines including Château Cheval Blanc, Château d'Yquem, Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Colgin Cellars, Dom Pérignon and Domaine Baron Thenard.
The remainder of the money will be spent supporting causes tackling the issue of diversity in the industry, including grassroots programmes like Wine on Wheels in New York, the Africa Wine Club in Ghana and a programme in Australia that looks to fund three Aboriginal students through undergraduate degrees in fine wine.
According to Liquid Icons and the Gerard Basset Wine Education Charitable Foundation, there are no Black Masters of Wine and only three BIPOC Master Sommeliers, who are all based in the US.
At a press conference announcing the details of the scholarships and the awards ceremony, the organisation admitted the fine wine industry is "shamelessly lacking" in diversity. Chester said: "You need to have role models at the very top level, so other members of the community can look up to them and unfortunately to date we don't have any and we're looking to address that.
"And there are a variety of other reasons from cultural to specifics around socio-economic issues – wine is a more generally expensive product – and no doubt we will perform research to determine these reasons. But the key thing is we need to get the role models."
The judging panel for the scholarships will include Nina Basset, founder of Sandhi Wines Rajat Parr, wine critic Jancis Robinson and Master Sommeliers Carlton McCoy and Clement Robert, who will also provide ongoing mentorship to the two Golden Vines Diversity Scholars.
Applications for the scholarships will open on 8 March on the Liquid Icons website with the deadline for entries on 16 April. The scholars will be announced at the Golden Vines Awards ceremony on 7 October.