Leading figures and institutions across the wine world have paid tribute to the warmth and genius of Gerard Basset, a 'great gentleman of wine’ who simultaneously held both the Master of Wine and Master Sommelier titles, and who has died this week.
Gerard Basset OBE MW MS died on 16 January with his family by his side, following a battle with cancer of the oesophagus that was first diagnosed in 2017. He was 61 years old, and would have been 62 on 7 March.
He will be remembered as one of the wine world’s leading lights, not least for having been the only person to improbably hold both the Master of Wine and Master Sommelier titles – many struggle to gain even one of those accolades – alongside an MBA in wine business and an MSc.
Basset also won the title of ‘world’s best sommelier’ in 2010 and was given an OBE in the UK in 2011.
Those achievements, while undoubtedly impressive, were underpinned by Basset’s work in mentoring many young sommeliers who have gone on to be ranked among the world’s finest in their own right.
‘Words cannot express how saddened we are to hear of the passing of our former president and friend, Gerard Basset,’ said the Court of Master Sommeliers.
‘He has been a mentor and inspiration to so many, a shining example of courtesy, humility and professionalism that we all should aspire to.’
Basset was a regular judge and expert taster for Decanter, and was appointed co-chair of the Decanter World Wine Awards in 2017, the year in which he also gained an MSc from the International Organisation of Vine and Wine.
He was also a vice-chair at the Decanter Asia Wine Awards, and had previously won the publication’s Man of the Year title, in 2013.
John Stimpfig, Decanter’s content director, said, ‘The news of Gerard Basset MW MS OBE’s death is a hard and heavy blow to all who knew this great gentleman of wine. He was a true wine legend who gave so much to so many, both personally and professionally.’
Alongside all of this, Basset found time to be a founding partner of Hotel du Vin. He also opened wine hotel TerraVina with his wife, Nina, in the New Forest in southern England.
That business re-launched as ‘Spot in the Woods’ last year, as part of efforts to adapt the operation to fit around Basset’s illness.
Nina Basset 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 [our son] 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.’
Basset was born and raised in France. He originally trained as a chef. However, after moving to the UK in the 1980s, he began working front-of-house and exchanged the kitchen for the sommelier role.
The story goes that he only came to the UK for a football match in Liverpool, but ended up sticking around and building his career in the country’s hospitality trade.
Speaking to Decanter’s Brian St-Pierre in 2013, Basset said, ‘You have to give back as much as you have taken, after all.
‘I totally believe in education, for my team and my proteges of course, but also continually for myself.’
His family said that there would be a small, private funeral and, later in the spring, a memorial service that will be held in London. In the meantime, messages of condolence can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A crowdfunding account has been set up to fund the publishing of Basset’s memoirs, Tasting Victory – The Life & Wines of the World’s Favourite Sommelier – you can donate here.