2023 Golden Vines scholars revealed

Golden Vines winners 2023

The 2023 diversity scholars were revealed in Paris last Friday night. Left to right: Amrita Singh, Eduardo Bolaños and Sachindri Rana.

This year we judges selected three Taylor’s Port Golden Vines Scholarship winners, all of whom were able to make it to Paris for last weekend’s awards ceremony in the extraordinary Musée des Arts Forains, a funfair museum located on a site near the River Seine that was once a wine reception centre for the city. These are the top awards of many made by the Gérard Basset Foundation.

The winner who travelled the greatest distance, via various Foundation-sponsored visits in Champagne, was Dr Sachindri Rana, currently based in New Zealand. While growing up in India she was apparently addicted to a travel channel and identified most closely with the wine-related images. Swirled wine in a glass worked some magic on her. So after acquiring a PhD in biotechnology in India, she went to the University of Auckland to study wine and has been working in the New Zealand wine industry for eight years. She’s now a research programme manager at the Bragato Research Institute in Marlborough, specialising in winemaking innovation projects, including their Pinot Noir programme extension. As someone brought up to revere education, Dr Rana is extremely keen to qualify as a Master of Wine. She also works hard to promote diversity and inclusion generally in New Zealand.

Eduardo Bolaños travelled to Paris from Los Angeles. His first encounters with wine were in his native Guatemala, where his father would open a bottle of Rioja Reserva or Gran Reserva to celebrate each Thanksgiving. He eventually got a job as a busboy at the famous Spago restaurant in Beverly Hills and become so intrigued by wine that he asked the wine director if he could help him in his spare time. He started out doing nothing more glamorous than unpacking cases but he stuck with it and eventually the wine director let him take leftovers home. He clearly showed an aptitude for tasting since he is already a CMS Advanced Sommelier. He was all set to open his own restaurant with his chef brother when the pandemic hit but, keen to learn all aspects of the wine industry, he is currently working in wine retail. He is all too aware that in hospitality, despite his many years’ experience and Advanced certification, he was still taken for a busboy because of his appearance. He wants to change all that. Hoping to earn the MS qualification, he envisages what he calls ‘a world where Latinos are seen and respected beyond picking grapes’.

The third winner of a Golden Vines diversity scholarship from the Gérard Basset Foundation was another Indian woman, Amrita Singh. She had to travel only from Bordeaux where she is now based, having decided in 2018 to immerse herself in wine education. She already had an established and successful fashion career in India but the lure of wine was too strong to resist. She obtained an MSc in wine and spirits management from KEDGE Business School in Bordeaux and has worked her way through all the WSET courses. Now her ambition is to become India’s second MW and to turn Indians, potentially 1.38 billion of them, on to wine and responsible alcohol consumption. In Paris she told me how much she appreciated a recent online coaching session on MW exam-taking by Sam Cole-Johnson, our US-based senior editor. She recently co-founded CELLAR 33 which is already representing several international wine producers and will exhibit at Prowein India this year. She clearly has a strong head for business, which is arguably just what the wine world needs.

As a trustee of the Gérard Basset Foundation, along with ex WSET CEO Ian Harris, I am thrilled to have helped no fewer than eight Taylor’s Port Golden Vines scholars from diverse backgrounds along the way to realising their ambitions to qualify as either a Master of Wine or Master Sommelier. The wine world is all the better for their involvement.

The day-to-day work of the Foundation is the responsibility of Gérard’s son Romané. Gérard’s widow Nina is also very closely involved, looking after the administration and offering an immense amount of pastoral care to all scholars, especially the Golden Vines ones. Since its inception, the Gérard Basset Foundation has in total supported more than 60 scholars and 23 grantees in five continents.