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Tributes flood in for Gerard Basset following death, aged 61

16 January 2019 by
Tributes flood in for Gerard Basset following death, aged 61

The undisputed king of sommeliers Gerard Basset has passed away at the age of 61 after receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis last year.

The Master of Wine, co-founder of the Hotel du Vin chain and former World's Best Sommelier, had been diagnosed with oesophagus cancer in 2017 and returned to France last year with wife Nina to pursue treatment opportunities. He passed away at his home in the New Forest surrounded by his family.

Gerard was named the World's Best Sommelier in 2010 and won a plethora of awards during an unprecedented career including four Cateys (the Special Award in 2010, Wine and Spirit Ambassador Award in 2014 as well as Newcomer of the Year for Hotel du Vin in 1996 and Hotel of the Year for Hotel du Vin in 2001), an OBE for services to the hospitality industry in 2011 and the Order du Mérite Agricole from the French government last year. He was the first and remains the only individual to have held the challenging Master of Wine qualification simultaneously with the Master Sommelier, MBA Wine Business and MSc from the International Organisation of Vine and Wine.

Gerard Basset is named the World's Best Sommelier in 2010

butes to the industry stalwart were led by Robin Hutson, chairman and CEO of the Limewood Group and co-founder of Hotel du Vin.

He told The Caterer: "I first met Gerard in the late 1980s at Chewton Glen, working together, sharing a love of wine and becoming close friends. In 1994 I asked Gerard if he would join me as my partner in a new entrepreneurial venture that was to become known at Hotel du Vin. We were partners for 10 years before eventually successfully selling the business in 2004.

"I have lost a true friend in Gerard, so many happy memories and stories over the years… as his best man when he married his beloved Nina, at Romané's christening as godfather, hotel opening parties, wine visits/competitions all over the world and the simple pleasure of sharing countless bottles of wine together.

"An overused phrase but not in this case, Gerard was indeed a true legend in hospitality and wine, his achievements almost too numerous to list although the selfless devotion to training and developing the next generation of sommeliers should not be ignored, he has definitely left his mark on this planet. My thoughts are with Nina and Romané, he will indeed be greatly missed."

The Court of Master Sommeliers were among many more to pay tribute. It posted a message to Twitter reading: "Words cannot express how saddened we are to hear of the passing of our former president and friend Gerard Basset MS, MW, OBE. He has been a mentor and inspiration to so many, a shining example of courtesy, humility and professionalism that we all should aspire to."

Leading wine writer Jancis Robinson wrote: "A moment of quiet reflection and a long period of respect is in order for what can truly be called a tragedy for the wine world: the loss to cancer earlier today of Gerard Basset, world's best sommelier in 2010 and a mentor and example to so many."

Fellow wine writer Fiona Sims, who interviewed Gerard on several occasions for The Caterer, said: "It's not just the wine world that will mourn this clever, kind man whom I first met over 25 years ago. He was a breath of fresh air in the days when sommeliers were rather more stiff, and as humble as he was knowledgable about a subject that terrified most, but one that he shared with a passion that was infectious."

Philip Newman-Hall, former managing director of Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Great Milton, Oxfordshire, added: "Just read that @GerardBassetOBE has passed away. One of life's gentlemen who seemed to make wine knowledge accessible to us all. Thoughts with all his loving family."

Gerard Basset pictured at Hotel TerraVina

n and brought up in France, Gerard originally trained as a chef only embarking on a career as a sommelier when he moved to the UK in the 1980s. It was not long before his prodigious talent came to the attention of the wine trade as he scooped up the the titles of UK Sommelier of the Year, Best International Sommelier for French Wines and Best Sommelier of Europe in quick succession.

Following the sale of Hotel du Vin, Gerard and Nina opened Hotel TerraVina at the gateway to the New Forest in Netley Marsh, Hampshire, in 2007. The business was relaunched last summer as an 11-bedroom boutique B&B called Spot in the Woods with the Kitchen Café.

Gerard and Nina spoke to The Caterer about the project in August last year, while he was recovering from an operation. The couple said the new project was "exciting", attracting new customers who were quickly becoming regular visitors, with Gerard teasing plans to expand the concept into a group.

Three months later wine writer Tom Stevenson revealed on Twitter that Gerard's condition was terminal, initiating an outpouring of support from the hospitality industry.

Nina said: "Whilst we are devastated to have to say goodbye to Gerard for the last time, we draw strength from the kind messages that we have already received from the many people whose lives he touched. He fought a brave battle against cancer and we are comforted that he died at home surrounded by his family and that he is now at peace. Both Romané and I are profoundly grateful for the support we have received from our friends across the world, including the many in the wine and hospitality industries and to know that Gerard was so loved by all those who knew him."

A small, private funeral will be followed by a memorial service in the Spring in London. Details will be released in due course. Messages of condolence can be sent to inmemoriam@culturalcomms.co.uk.

Gerard is survived by his wife Nina (pictured below) and their son Romané.

Gerard and Nina Basset pictured at the Spot in the Woods in summer 2018
Gerard Basset overwhelmed by industry support following terminal cancer diagnosis>> Gerard Basset receives leading French honour>> Gerard Basset receives OBE from Princess Royal>>
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