Gerard Basset is a man of many letters. He is the only person in the world to hold the combined honors of Master of Wine, Master Sommelier, Wine MBA and World’s Best Sommelier. He is also the owner of Hotel Terravina in New Forest and co-founder of the Hotel du Vin business. And as if these honors are not enough to recognize him as one of the greatest wine professionals of his generation, Decanter named Basset “Man of the Year” earlier this year. He is the 30th person to join the list of individuals who have made significant contributions to the world of wine.
Asian Palate is thrilled to have the opportunity to learn from the man who has so many letters after his name – MS, MW, MBA, OBE – and listen to him talk about his 25-plus years devoted to wine.
AP: Asian Palate GB: Gerard Basset
AP: You were just named Decanter Man of the Year this year. What was your first reaction when you heard the news? What is the significance of this honor for you?
GB: A letter arrived at my home in December 2012 from Decanter Magazine but I was away on a wine trip and my wife Nina opened it just in case it was important. She did not say anything on the phone but when I came back home she told me “there is an important letter for you”. I thought there was a problem and I was worried. When I read the letter I could not believe it and I was shocked because I had never thought I could be considered for such an honor. When you look at the list of the past winners, it is just an incredible list of wine legends and to be part of this very special club is just magic. The letter said not to tell anyone until publication four months later in April 2103 so Nina and I had to keep the secret for all that time and it was difficult but worth it. It is a great honor and it is the first time it has been awarded to a sommelier, so I think it is great for the sommelier profession.
AP: You are the only person to ever simultaneously hold the honors of MS, MW and MBA Wine. How did gaining each title add to your perspective and/or philosophy of wine?
GB: Although, wine is the linchpin of the three qualifications, they are quite dissimilar and I had to learn different skills but I enjoyed that aspect very much. I did the MS relatively early on in my wine career and then I was really focused on food and wine. The MW made me more business minded and the Wine MBA cemented the wine business aspect. Nevertheless, my philosophy never really changed and that is: “wine is a fabulous product providing amazing emotions, and not just in terms of taste, but it is important never to become a wine bore and take oneself too seriously”.
AP: What advise can you give the people who are currently studying for MS, MW or MBA Wine?
GB: Whatever qualifications someone is attempting doing it is vital to take pleasure doing the course or program and so make the preparation as exciting and enjoyable as possible. Understand what is required to obtain the qualification and also work on exam techniques and not just learning about wine.
AP: What’s the most fulfilling part of your job now?
GB: I am lucky now I have a variety of occupations around wine but if I talk more about my role as a Sommelier/Hotelier I would say that seeing customers being happy provides me with great satisfaction. Of course, traveling and visiting wine regions around the world is extremely fulfilling. I come back refreshed and as I love learning it is wonderful as I come back with so much new information and ideas; That is magic!
AP: What’s your favorite Asian food and wine pairing and why?
GB: I am a great fan of Asian food and amongst others sushi. With a lovely plate of sushi I love drinking a great Chablis from a talented producer, such as Dauvissat or Laroche to name just two, but unlike my friend Jeannie Cho Lee I am not an expert on Asian food so I have still plenty to discover and next time I am in Hong Kong with Jeannie I will ask her to make me experience another one of her great Asian food and wine combinations.