Gérard Basset Foundation grantees announced

Portrait of Gerard Basset by Mirentxu Bellet

The influence of legendary sommelier Gérard Basset carries on in this latest round of grant awards designed to increase diversity and inclusion in the wine, spirits and hospitality businesses.

Just a couple of months ago, the Gérard Basset Foundation announced the winners of its annual Golden Vines Scholarships, awarded to scholars from diverse backgrounds to help them further their wine studies. Now they’ve announced 18 grants they have awarded to educational and professional programmes focused on diversifying the wine and hospitality space.

The competition for these grants was tight, with 44 proposals reviewed by an awards panel that consisted of foundation trustees Nina Basset FIH, Romané Basset, Ian Harris MBE and our own Jancis Robinson, with input from the foundation’s interim CEO Lulie Halstead. And the list of winners is impressively wide-ranging, spanning 11 countries over five continents, and fascinating, ranging from wine schools in Brazil, Mexico and the Dominican Republic to professional training for Latinx vineyard workers in Oregon to Unity Works, a UK-based charity that trains people with learning disabilities for work in hospitality. Halstead estimates that these grants will support over 300 individuals, helping them to further their education and boost their employment opportunities.

Since its launch in 2021, the foundation has awarded 30 grants funded from donations raised at the annual Golden Vines Auctions, and it plans to further diversify its fundraising activities in the coming year in order to support even more grantees and scholars. Meanwhile, mark your calendars: the 2024 Golden Vines Global Online Charity Auction opens on 6 October 2024.

Here are the 2023 Grantees, with descriptions provided by the Gérard Basset Foundation.

280 Project runs a paid apprenticeship programme in San Francisco, based at their vineyard planted on repurposed land. Apprentices from groups historically excluded from the wine industry undertake six months of paid viticultural work, learning ‘everything from the vine up’, with the goal of securing full-time paid employment upon completion. Our funding will again support apprentices through their programmes.

AHIVOY (The Asociación Hispana de la Industria del Vino en Oregon y Comunidad) provides education and professional development opportunities to Latinx vineyard stewards working in the Oregon wine industry. Our funding will support the creation of several scholarships for Latinx vineyard stewards seeking to complete their 17-week course covering vineyard management, viticultural studies, winemaking, bottling, grape and wine certification.

Be Inclusive Hospitality is a not-for-profit social enterprise that seeks to accelerate race equity with the hospitality, food, and drink industries. Our funding is supporting the educational components of Club Thrive, a membership club which offers education, mentorship, scholarship opportunities and pertinent industry events for People of Colour working in the UK hospitality industry. These include a one-week intensive course at Plumpton College on winemaking and vine-growing for four students and a two-day intensive wine masterclass for 12.

Bordeaux Mentor Week was founded by Jane Anson and Chinedu Rita Rosa to encourage diversity and ongoing education in wine by providing an immersive week-long course in Bordeaux, meeting with key players and learning about the making, marketing and selling of bordeaux wine. Our funding will go towards supporting seven scholars from diverse backgrounds and countries to attend the next edition of the Mentor Week in 2024.

Celebrare is a Brazilian wine school committed to providing high-quality and accessible wine education. Our funding will go towards supporting the creation of five bursaries for students from underrepresented communities, enabling them to undertake Celebrare’s own ‘Oenophile’s Journey’ course, as well as the WSET Level 2 and the International Sommelier Guild’s Intermediate Wine Certificate. Celebrare are matching our funding and creating five further bursaries, bringing the total number of beneficiaries to ten.

Curious Vines has the objective to improve wine industry gender diversity through mentoring and by providing education and development for career advancement. Our funding will support a range of educational programmes which support women studying for the WSET Diploma and CMS Advanced Sommelier qualifications. A portion of our funding will also go towards supporting female candidates preparing for the UK Sommelier of the Year exam. [Queena Wong’s organisation gave rise to the recent survey of women in the UK wine trade – JR.]

EduVino Paso a Paso is a wine school offering International Sommelier Guild (ISG) courses to students primarily in Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Our funding will support the creation of up to 10 bursaries for students to undertake the ISG’s Intermediate and Advanced Wine Certificates.

Hue Society is a US organisation that seeks to increase the representation of People of Colour in the wine industry through creating opportunities for networking, mentorship, and education. Our funding supports a variety of the Hue Society’s educational initiatives, including their monthly educational workshops and seminars and towards the creation of individual bursaries for courses including WSET Levels 1–3 and courses on how to be a better wine writer.

IWEC (International Wine Education Centre) in South Africa is the largest provider of WSET courses in Africa and the Middle East and the only provider in this region to offer WSET Diploma. Our funding will go towards the creation of 14 bursaries for Diploma and WSET Level 3 students from underrepresented communities. 

KEDGE Wine School in France delivers courses in the field of wine, spirits, sommellerie and hospitality. Our funding will support their WorldSomm programme and will offer 10 students from diverse backgrounds a six-week sommellerie course, featuring teaching from some of France’s most well-known sommeliers.

Pebbles Project supports children and young adults from rural agricultural communities in South Africa. Our funding will support the wine and hospitality educational components of Pebbles’ Early Adulthood Development Programme and will support up to 80 learners to undertake barista training, WSET Level 1 and a basic hospitality skills course, building their skills to widen their career options.

Pinotage Youth Development Academy (PYDA), based in Stellenbosch, develops talented 18- to 25-year-olds from under-resourced areas for employment and meaningful economic opportunities. This is achieved through innovative programmes with a strong focus on personal development and its resulting emotional intelligence and personal agency. Our funding will support a cohort of 50 students undertaking PYDA’s Wine & Marketing Programme, as well as their Alumni Support Initiatives focused upon Sommelier Training.

Sommelier Education for Zimbabwe (in partnership The Sommeliers Academy and the Sommelier Association of Zimbabwe): As a collaborative funding programme between the Gérard Basset Foundation and the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale, our funding will support a six-month, part-time sommelier training programme for 30 candidates in Zimbabwe, allowing them to undertake a variety of locally offered sommelier certifications.

Sunburst Vin is located in the Indian state of West Bengal and has the vision to make wine and other alcoholic beverage education accessible and affordable for Indian students and professionals. Our funding will support a variety of the wine certifications and teaching programmes offered by Sunburst Vin, to benefit 64 students.

UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology is one of the top programmes in the world, engaging scholars and industry collaboration internationally and producing a significant number of the leading winemakers and viticulturists. Our funding will support an outreach day of UC Davis’ Diversity of Wine Academy Outreach Programme, in which 25 community college students from underrepresented and underserved communities will benefit from hands-on learning and mentorship.

Unity Works are a UK-based charity who support over 400 people with a learning disability each year, providing opportunities to gain skills, achieve qualifications and move towards employment. Our funding will support several students to undertake their Hospitality Training Programme, supporting up to 400 hours of training and hands-on work experience in one of their social enterprise cafés.

Vinequity is a Canadian non-profit which provides scholarships, mentorship and advocacy to support individuals who are facing barriers in the wine industry. Our funding will support Vinequity’s Increasing Diversity in Wine Production Programme, with the aim of supporting 15 students to learn about and develop their skills in the field of viticulture.

Wine & Spirit Professional Centre (W&SPC) runs a range of training programmes in multiple locations across Greece in wine (up to WSET Diploma) as well as spirits, sake, coffee, cocoa and tea. Our funding will support their ‘Now I can do it too’ initiative which will support 25 single mothers to gain certification in wine, spirits and coffee whilst receiving support to secure flexible employment in the tourism and hospitality sector.

Photo of Gérard Basset by Mirentxu Bellet.