Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Gerard Basset
Gerard Basset is from all the sommeliers I’ve interviewed, without any doubt the most admired sommelier from within as from outside the ‘world of sommeliers’. Most top sommeliers I’ve interviewed so far gave his name as THE person they admire the most… Which made me wonder who Gerard himself admires ….
To make a long story short, Gerard Basset is the only sommelier in the world who has won every International sommelier competition there is to win :-) . In case you were doubting which titles: Master of Wine, Master Sommelier, Wine MBA and World’s Best Sommelier and the list goes on and on . He’s also been appointed as Officer of the Order of the British Empire So he’s practically royalty ;-)
Although Gerard has been living and working in the UK since the 1980’s, his roots lay in France. It is in the UK on the other hand that he’s started his career as a sommelier in various top UK restaurants. Later in the 90’s he was even co-hotel owner of six hotels until they were taken over by another group. Now Gerard’s main focus goes to the hotel his wife and himself opened near Southampton that goes by the name Terravina. I say main focus, but I do also think most of his time still goes to wine and traveling the world to be a wine ambassador.
Just like with all the other sommeliers I’ve asked Gerard to answer questions that give you a sneak peak into his world. Feast your eyes on what the Master himself has to say:
What is your favorite wine region to work with?
I love the Island of Madeira, Jerez and the Douro Valley as I love fortified wines. However, there are so many other exciting regions, to name just a few: Burgundy, Champagne, The Napa Valley, The Colchagua Valley, Mendoza, Piedmont and many more, including England too.
What does it take to be a good sommelier according to you?
To be able to do several things well, like being a great taster of food and wine, having wide knowledge of wine but also food, being an excellent waiter, being capable to organize a team and train/motivate the other Sommeliers, being good at finance and being an excellent buyer and salesman (in the noble sense of the term), being a great ambassador for wine producers and above all being extremely welcoming and making customers happy.
Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?
Perhaps before but I don’t think it is the case now at least in countries where the Sommelier profession is well established.
When and how did you get the passion for wine?
When I came to England (in the 1980’s) I was quickly put to serve wine as I was French and I really enjoyed it so it soon became a passion.
Who is your big example in the wine/sommelier world?
In the wine world Jancis Robinson as she is so exact and thorough. However, the world of wine is full of heroes and unsung heroes I have so many producers I admire and many Sommelier friends who have inspired me.
What is your approach for pairing wines (or other beverages) with dishes?
I like following different routes. Sometimes I match the texture of the food with the body of the wines, sometimes I match saviours and aromas, sometimes I match regionality of food and wine, I can match slow cooked food with mature wines or grilled food with young fresh wines, or other principles. To recap I am not rigid and at the end we must have fun and not take that too seriously.
Which wine region would you recommend everybody to visit and why?
I think Chablis is unique and magical but I also like the island of Madeira for all sorts of reasons and the Napa Valley for its superb food.
For which wine would you make a big sacrifice to be able to taste it?
I would make a big sacrifice to taste Château Haut-Brion 1989 again. It was simply phenomenal when I had it last time (2 years ago).
What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school or viticulture studies?
Learning how to write essays when I was studying for the Master of Wine. It was tough for me but I am glad I persevered.
A culinary or wine experience everybody should have had besides have a meal at your restaurant, shop, winery, etc..?
Spending holidays in wine regions, I cannot think of anything better