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The Gerard Basset Foundation: passion as a legacy


Created in January 2021 in homage to the great man that Gerard Basset was, ASI Best Sommelier of Europe 1996 and ASI Best Sommelier of the World 2010, the Gerard Basset Foundation passes on, through his wife Nina and his son Romané, his passion for the world of wine through education, training, and mentoring. Interview with Romané Basset.

Gérard Basset

Could you describe the role of the Gérard Basset Foundation?
We set up the Foundation with two goals in mind: firstly, we wanted to honour the memory of Papa, and in particular his passion for education and mentorship, helping others to thrive in the wine, spirits and hospitality industries; and secondly, we wanted the Foundation's work to be impactful in a profoundly positive way upon the industries we work in. Research has shown that there are still major issues when it comes to inclusion and diversity in our sector, and so we feel that by using the Foundation's resources to ameliorate this through creating access and nurturing talent, we hope to play a part in affecting meaningful positive change.

Can you briefly introduce the team members?
The Charity has four Trustees: Mum and myself are two of them (with Mum acting as Chair of the Board), with Ian Harris MBE and Jancis Robinson OBE MW completing the team. Ian and Jancis were both good friends of Papa's for a very long time, and they each have a wealth of experience within the industry as well as a passion for fulfilling our mandate, and so Mum and I are delighted that they have joined us in preserving Papa's memory through our work. In addition to the Trustees, Lewis Chester - one of Papa's closest friends serves as our Head of Fundraising, and his colleague Alexander Lushnikov has been instrumental in setting up many of the Foundation's processes.

In November 2023 we were joined by the hugely respected Lulie Halstead, who takes the role as interim CEO, and Christian Holthausen, who is overseeing the PR and communications for the Foundation. Both appointments are great additions to the team and bring with them a wealth of expertise, experience and passion for their roles.

Romané Basset

How are the beneficiary of scholarships and mentorship programs selected?
For the Scholarships, each one has its own judging panel, which consists of industry leaders and representatives of both the Foundation and the scholarship sponsor. Applicants are invited to apply by filling in a comprehensive form that details their experience, their qualifications and their eligibility for the scholarship in question. The judges review these applications and collectively create a shortlist of the most promising applicants. These shortlisted applicants are then invited to be interviewed via zoom, and after the interview round the judges collectively decide upon the winner(s). Throughout the decision-making process, the judges will be considering each applicants' ability, likelihood of success in achieving the scholarship's stated educational and professional goals, their financial need for the scholarship and, importantly, their potential contribution to promoting diversity and inclusion in the wine, spirits and/or hospitality industry.

Tell us about your partnerships. How are they selected?
Our grantees are spread across the world and all share our desire to make the wine, spirits and hospitality worlds more inclusive and more diverse through mentorship, education and professional training. Our grantees include the ASI, who we have partnered with alongside the Sommeliers Academy in South Africa to offer a scholarship that provides the winner, Sharrol Mukendi-Klaas, with internationally recognised wine certifications and training as well as the chance to interact with some of the world's greatest sommeliers - indeed, she will be attending the ASI Bootcamp this November in Ecuador. We also partner with higher education institutions such as the KEDGE Wine School, with whom we have funded a series of introductory and intermediate sommelier training courses, open to students who would not otherwise be able to afford such a level of training in sommellerie. What's more, we also work with smaller community educators such as Celebrare, a Brazilian wine school with whom we created 20 scholarships for students from historically marginalised communities and which enabled them to undertake WSET and ISG courses. These are just 3 examples from the 17 grantees who we supported in 2023.

For the grantee programmes, we invite institutions, educators, community groups and similar organisations to submit applications for projects which fulfil our mandate. The trustees collectively review all of these applications, looking in particular at how broad and meaningful an impact a given project will have on its beneficiaries. We are also conscious to try and spread our funding globally, again to create a broad and meaningful impact which is not limited to just one continent. Once we have all reviewed the applications, we then discuss and decide upon the projects which we believe will best serve our mandate and have the greatest positive impact upon diversity and inclusion in our industries.

What are your future projects and events?
For the next year, we want to continue our current structure of supporting grantees and scholars globally. We are building a community of Alumni from our programmes, and we think it would be great to expand that network further. It will certainly be a powerful way for like-minded wine professionals to communicate and collaborate with each other. As the year progresses, we have no doubt that we will start working with even more passionate grantees and scholars, and we look forward to seeing the positive impact which they will have on our industries.

Interview by Sandy Bénard-Ravoisier

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