14 Gérard Basset Foundation grants made

Romané, Gerard and Nina Basset

A massive amount of money was raised last October to further the cause of diversity in wine. So where will it go?

Thanks to the sterling efforts of fundraiser Lewis Chester of Liquid Icons, his team and the generosity of bidders and drinks producers, £1.2 million was raised at the Golden Vines Awards ceremony and dinner and related auctions for the foundation established in memory of Gerard Basset by his widow Nina and son Romané, seen above with him when he was made a Freeman of the City of London.

Along with Nina, Romané and Ian Harris MBE of the Wine & Spirit Education Trustee, I am a trustee of the Gérard Basset Foundation and had the great pleasure in November of taking part in a long, virtual meeting with my fellow trustees in order to decide how to spend all this money. The aim of this charitable foundation is the laudable one of furthering the cause of diversity and inclusivity in the wine industry and – from 2022 – the spirits and hospitality sectors too.

The Liquid Icons team did a great job publicising the fact that we were seeking worthy recipients of grants from the Foundation and during our meeting we considered in great detail 23 applications from the UK, Europe, North America, Africa and Australia.

In the end we awarded carefully calibrated funding grants to 14 institutional and community partners to fund the diversity and inclusivity wine education programmes listed below. These grants are in addition to the headline Golden Vines Diversity Scholarships, worth £55,000 each, that were awarded to Angela Scott DipWSET and Dr Erna Blancquaert in October, as well as the Golden Vines Master of Wine and Master Sommelier scholarships worth £12,500 each and awarded to Mags Jango DipWSET and Winnie Toh respectively. 

Nina Basset commented, ‘With the unprecedented success of the Golden Vines – organised by our partner, Liquid Icons – the Foundation has been able to distribute significantly more funds than we could have imagined’, adding, ‘this is just the start. We hope to be able to put larger sums to work in future years thanks to the generosity of the enormous number of fine-wine estates and rare spirit distilleries who are supporting the Foundation through their participation in the Golden Vines Fine Wine, Rare Spirit & Experience Auction, the next edition of which will go live on 1 October 2022.’

(Copy-editing note: For reasons of convenience, Gerard Basset himself dropped the accent on the e in his first name when he settled in the UK, but it has been decided to restore that accent on the name of the foundation in order to stress its aim to encourage diversity.)

Grants have been awarded to the following institutional and community partners for the calendar year 2022.

The Africa Wine Academy, Ghana: Founded in 2018 by businessman and wine lover Kodjo Adovor, the Africa Wine Academy’s mission is to increase the level of wine knowledge and consumer experience on the African continent, beginning in Kodjo’s home of Ghana, by providing widely recognised wine and spirits courses to its members. With the Gérard Basset Foundation’s help, The Africa Wine Academy aims to fund 350 students undertaking their Level 1 and Level 2 WSET exams.

Be Inclusive Hospitality, UK: Founded in 2019 by Lorraine Copes, a veteran of the hospitality procurement sector, Be Inclusive Hospitality was set up to combat the visible lack of representation for BAME/BIPOC individuals in the wine, spirits and hospitality industries. With the Gérard Basset Foundation’s funding, Be Inclusive Hospitality will found ‘Club Thrive’, which will provide BAME/BIPOC professionals with a forum to network, be educated, be mentored and become mentors, and to develop in their respective fields in the wine, spirits and hospitality industries, all while amplifying their collective voice.

The Hue Society, USA: Founded in 2017 by sommelier and entrepreneur Tahiirah Habibi, The Hue Society’s mission is to create a network of chapters across the United States for BAME/BIPOC individuals, providing their members with mentorship opportunities, education, increased economic access to wine and culturally relevant wine experiences. The Gérard Basset Foundation will be contributing towards The Hue Society’s existing educational and mentorship programs.

The International Sommelier Guild, International: Founded in 1982, the International Sommelier Guild is a leader in providing some of the finest and most complete Sommelier education and accreditation the world over, through their team of exceptional instructors teaching their robust curriculum. The Gérard Basset Foundation will be providing funds to create a suite of bursaries at all the different levels of the ISG’s courses, all of which will be focused towards candidates fitting diversity and inclusivity criteria.

KEDGE Wine School, France, China, Sénégal, Côte d’Ivoire: Founded in 2020 within the aegis of the renowned KEDGE Business School, the KEDGE Wine School provides rigorous and high-quality academic courses in the realms of wine, spirits and hospitality education. The Gérard Basset Foundation and KEDGE Wine School will be collaborating on two initiatives: one will be to provide 12 students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds with the opportunity to partake of KEDGE’s 5-day Sommellerie Program; while the other will be the creation of a bursary fund for a student from KEDGE’s Dakar campus to undertake the MSc in Wine and Hospitality Management qualification directed by KEDGE Wine School and l’École Hôtelière de Lausanne.

OIV, The International Organisation of Vine and Wine, International: Established in 2004, the OIV is a scientific and technical organisation focused upon winemaking, viticulture and all vine-based products. It is an international body of 48 member states. The Gérard Basset Foundation and the OIV will be providing matching funds to create a bursary for one student fitting diversity criteria to undertake the OIV MSc in Wine Management qualification.

Okanagan College Foundation, in partnership with Vinica Education Society, Canada: The Foundation has made a grant to create an Indigenous Viticulture Scholarship Programme for six Indigenous students to take Okanagan College’s viticulture certificate programme, in collaboration with Indigenous mentors and the Indigenous community.

Pinotage Youth Development Academy, South Africa: Since 2012, the Pinotage Youth Development Academy (PYDA) has developed and educated over 450 talented 18-25 year olds coming from disadvantaged sections of South African society, through a curriculum that balances vocational training with general life skills to help career progress. The Gérard Basset Foundation will be contributing funds towards PYDA’s Wine and Marketing Programme, as well as to its Alumni Continued Professional Development Programme.

The Roots Fund, USA: Co-founded in 2020 by hospitality consultant, Ikimi Dubose, Sommelier and Entrepreneur Tahiirah Habibi, and Heitz Cellar’s Carlton McCoy Jr. MS, the Roots Fund is dedicated to opening up the world of wine to BIPOC individuals through education, thereby increasing the diversity and inclusivity of the industry in all its facets. The Gérard Basset Foundation will provide funding towards the Roots Fund’s ‘Stay Rooted in Education’ initiative, which provides support to BIPOC individuals seeking certification from a wide variety of globally renowned wine educators.

The Two Eighty Project, USA: Set up in 2019 by viticulteur Christopher Renfro, the Two Eighty Project aims to provide BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ individuals with a route into wine-making and viticultural careers paths. The Project sets out to achieve this by educating underrepresented urban communities in San Francisco through its Urban Vine plantings, where people learn the fundamentals of viticulture, and also through the Two Eighty Apprenticeship Program, in which apprentices are paid to learn hands-on about ‘everything from the vine up’, conducted in partnership with UC Davis and winemaker Steve Matthiason. The Gérard Basset Foundation will be providing funds to support 5 apprentices undertaking the Program.

The University of Adelaide, Australia: Founded in 1874, the University of Adelaide provides Australia’s oldest Oenology and Viticulture Program, and its courses in the field of Wine are ranked among the top-5 in international ratings. The Gérard Basset Foundation will be supporting the University’s groundbreaking research into the fermentation practices of Australia’s First Nation Peoples, a process which will involve providing individuals from these communities with educational and research pathways, liaison with community leaders, and even career and commercialisation opportunities arising from the findings of the research.

Wine Empowered, USA: Co-founded in 2018 by sommelier and author Victoria James, events director and restaurateur Cynthia Cheung, and sommelier and general manager Amy Zhou, Wine Empowered provides its own 16-week tuition free wine education program exclusively to women and BIPOC individuals. The Gérard Basset Foundation will be providing funding to support 5 students undertaking Wine Empowered’s program.

Wine on Wheels, USA: Co-founded in 2011 by sommelier Yannick Benjamin and patent attorney Alex Elegudin, Wine on Wheels seeks to break down barriers preventing those living with disabilities from working in and partaking in the world of wine. The Gérard Basset Foundation will be providing support to Wine on Wheel’s new SOLERA Project, which draws together some of New York City’s finest chefs, sommeliers and winemakers to create a multi-disciplinary program focused upon providing participants with skills-based training and career opportunities, operating from Contento ‘barrier-free’ restaurant.

WSET, Wine and Spirits Education Trust & the National Indigenous Culinary Institute, Australia: The WSET is truly an organisation that needs no introduction. Beginning in 1969 to improve wine and spirits education in the UK’s wine and wine mercantile industry, the WSET has since become a global provider of wine and spirits courses at all levels from beginners to professionals. The Gérard Basset Foundation will be supporting the WSET and the National Indigenous Culinary Institute’s (NICI) initiative to provide WSET courses to Indigenous Australians undertaking the NICI apprenticeship scheme.