Esteemed Master Sommelier and co-founder of the Hotel du Vin chain Gerard Basset OBE has died after a 15-month battle with oesophagus cancer.
Basset was diagnosed with the disease in 2017 and underwent a course of chemotherapy, followed by a major operation in February 2018. He returned to France last year with his wife Nina to pursue further treatment opportunities, but sadly in November was given a 6-12 months life expectancy.
He died yesterday morning at his home in the New Forest surrounded by his family.
His wife, 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.”
Basset held an immeasurably successful career in the wine trade over the course of 30 years, described as one of the most influential, respected and beloved figures in the on-trade and a huge champion and supporter of the next generation of sommeliers.
He won countless awards such as World’s Best Sommelier in 2010, followed by an OBE for services to the hospitality industry in 2011 and the Order du Mérite Agricole from the French government last year.
He remains the first, and only, individual to hold the Master of Wine qualification simultaneously with the Master Sommelier and MBA Wine Business qualifications.
Following the news of his passing, tributes flooded in from around the world.
Harry Murray, chairman at Lucknam Park tweeted: Deeply saddened at passing of @GerardBassetOBE my heartfelt thoughts & sympathy go to Nina & family Apart from being worlds leading wine expert he was a humble & kind gentleman who made an enormous contribution to UK Hospitality industry RIP Gerard.
The Court of Master Sommeliers, of which Gerard was a former president, said: 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.
Wine critic Jancis Robinson posted: 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.
Born and raised in France, Gerard originally trained as a chef but embarked on a career as a sommelier when he moved to the UK in the 1980s.
He was appointed head sommelier at Chewton Glen in 1988, where he first met Robin Hutson who was to become his business partner in later years.
His extraordinary talent and knowledge of wine and service, coupled with his warm nature, meant that it was not long before his prodigious skill came to the attention of the wine trade. Award wins included UK Sommelier of the Year, Best International Sommelier for French Wines and Best Sommelier of Europe in quick succession.
Parallel to his competition success was a growing business empire, including Hotel du Vin which he co-founded with Hutson in 1994. Together they rolled out this new boutique hotel concept to six locations across the UK before selling the group to Malmaison for £66m.
In 2007, he opened Hotel TerraVina in the New Forest, a wine-focused luxury boutique hotel, with his wife Nina. Following many years of success, the business was adapted last year to become an 11-bed bed and breakfast, Spot in the Woods, as Basset’s health deteriorated.
While undergoing treatment, Basset wrote his memoirs, which will be published with the help of a crowdfunding campaign due to launch next week. More information on this will be published in due course.
Gerard is survived by his wife Nina and son Romané.
As confirmed by the family, a small, private funeral will take place and later in the spring a memorial service will be held in London, details of which will be released in due course. Messages of condolence can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.