On May 9th in London, Gerard Basset, 2010 Best Sommelier of the World and General Secretary of the A.S.I. was presented a fantastic award : the Decanter’s 2013 Man of the Year ! Great party with Gerard’s close friends and family. Michèle Chantôme was representing the A.S.I. Also famous Londoner sommeliers and Masters of Wine, personalities from the OIV, Sopexa, the Champagne Board, the Court of Masters Sommeliers, were attending this unique event that we could perfectly celebrate with champagne Pol Roger !
“Ladies and gentlemen, Sarah Kemp announced, we are here tonight to celebrate and honour a great man, Gerard Basset, Decanter’s 2013 Man of the Year.
This award was created in 1984 to recognise individuals who had made an outstanding contribution to the world of wine. The names on the list are the wine legends of our time, Emile Peynaud, Robert Mondavi, Christian Moueix, Hugh Johnson, Michael Broadbent, Piero Antinori, Miguel Torres, Aubert de Villaine and Jancis Robinson, who has kindly agreed to present Gerard with his award.
Tonight we add the name of Gerard Basset to that august list, Decanter’s 30th Man of the Year.
Gerard you are, we believe, the most qualified wine person in the world, a Master of Wine, a Master Sommelier, a wine MBA, the World Champion Sommelier in 2010, all stunning achievements, but this is not why you are receiving this award.
This award is given only to individuals who have made a difference to the world of wine and whose influence will live on. Tonight, Decanter honours you for the role you have played in ensuring wine is at the heart of the restaurant industry.
Back when you first arrived in Britain the stereotype of a sommelier was a haughty French man with his nose in the air who condescended to his customers. Today, we have a new breed of sommeliers, who are at the forefront of guiding consumers to the diversity of wine, and joyfully so. You played a leading role in changing the perception of wine service worldwide.
With the creation of Hotel du Vin, you showed how wine could be enjoyed in a comfortable setting without formality. Introduction of “wines of the day” list by the glass, along with prestige and cellar lists, helped consumers explore the world of wine you so love and paved the way for a new, more relaxed way to enjoy wine. Your innate sense of hospitality coupled with your desire to share your love of wine, provided a template for a new sort of establishment, one where a connoisseur or a novice could sit side by side in total confidence that they would be superbly looked after.
Today, the role of the sommelier is more important than ever. For it is in restaurants, not the high street, where consumers can find the variety and interest that the wine world has to offer. In an increasingly globalised and heterogeneous world it is the sommelier who can demonstrate the true range and glory of wine.
Today, you are the role model for sommeliers around the world. One of your greatest achievements is the part you have played in mentoring a generation of the world’s finest wine talent, several of whom are here tonight. You are known in the industry for your generous spirit, and your extraordinary kindness in devoting time to helping young sommeliers starting out, and I am sure you must be proud to see your protégés now making names for themselves across the globe.
Wherever wine is served by enthusiastic, knowledgeable sommeliers there is almost always a link back to you. If a young sommelier wins a competition, you can bet you were somewhere in the background. To quote Shinya Tasaki, President of the A.S.I. -International Association of Sommellerie-, “Your accumulated efforts are the pride of the sommelier industry”
Our respect for the leadership role you play today in the wine world is huge, our admiration is boundless for your achievements in changing the perceptions of wine service, and our affection for you, Gerard, a man of utmost humility and modesty, is total.”