Lise Donier-Meroz, sommelier at Simon Rogan's L'Enclume in the Lake District, has been named as the winner of the inaugural Gerard Basset Travel Scholarship.
The £5,000 prize was created in honour of the Hotel du Vin co-founder and former World's Best Sommelier by Gerard's wife Nina and son Romané, along with master sommelier Ronan Sayburn and wine journalist Tim Atkin. The award will be presented on an annual basis to enable a sommelier to visit a winemaking country of their choice and explore its regions, winemakers and wine personalities.
Nina said: "Lise's application was well-written, and we liked that she will use the funds to explore the whole South American continent, using eco forms of travel once she gets there. She's an exciting new talent, and we feel she will be a shining ambassador for sommellerie. Gerard would definitely have approved!"
Inaugural scholar Donier-Meroz was revealed at a La Paulée-style dinner on Saturday, hosted at 67 Pall Mall. As well as the £5,000 prize fund, she will receive help from the judging panel to plan her trip to make it as interesting as possible.
She said: "Travelling has always been an important part of my life. As soon as I started my apprenticeship at 16 years old, I put all my savings towards a South Africa trip and it was on this unforgettable journey that I fell in love with wine and knew I wanted it to be my career. I cannot wait for my South American adventure!
"I have literally never felt more grateful than I do to the judges for what will be a life-changing opportunity. I am so proud to have been chosen to be a representative for the UK's young sommeliers, and I will do so carrying the values and drive of my first ever inspiration and model, Monsieur Basset. I followed my heart with my choice of destination, and through its diversity of climates, cultures and histories, South America emerged as the natural choice.
"I will spend time in Chile and Argentina, but knowing me, my focus will be on the less popular areas such as Uruguay and Brazil. And I have set myself the challenge of travelling in an ecological way, as I wish every wine lover could realise how important it is to give health and respect to our planet Earth."