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  • Jancis Robinson
Written by
  • Jancis Robinson
21 Jan 2019

How you can honour the memory of the best sommelier in the world. 

27 March 2019 The Basset family has confirmed that a service of thanksgiving for Gerard's life will be held at 11am on Friday 14 June at Winchester cathedral.The family has close personal ties to the city of Winchester, not least because it is home to the original Hotel du Vin. Members of the wine and hospitality industries are warmly invited to attend. Following the service, a reception will be held at The Guildhall, Winchester. It would be appreciated if those intending to attend email inmemoriam@culturalcomms.co.uk by 30 May to give an indication of numbers.

16 March 2019 At yesterday's World's Best Sommelier championships in Antwerp Gerard was well and truly commemorated, as I will report. Romy Basset told Nick that the memorial service is scheduled for Friday 14 June in Winchester cathedral.

15 February 2019 The latest news of the likely timing and location of Gerard's memorial is that it is likely to be put off until June and will probably take place in Winchester cathedral. (Winchester has a very good train service from London.)

11 February 2019 The fund is now 231% subscribed, including not just one but two Platinum supporters who have so kindly pledged £5,000 each.

5 February 2019, later 200% achieved!  Perhaps thanks to GuildSomm's publication of a link today. Thank you, whoever added to this fabulous total. 

5 February 2019, sooner As I write, the crowdfunding page reports that 469 generous individuals, moved by Gerard's legacy, have raised 192% of the £14,000 needed to publish his memoirs later this year. According to crowdfunding specialist publishers Unbound, to raise such a high proportion of what's needed is very, very rare. As I write below, Gerard's widow Nina and son Romané are hoping to establish a scholarship in Gerard's name with the surplus. It would be so neat if we could just get to that 200%...!

25 January 2019 Thanks to the generosity of 376 individuals whose lives were touched by Gerard Basset, the £14,000 book project is 155% funded so a scholarship in Gerard's name looks an increasingly likely reality. This is great news. What a total to be raised in less than a week!

23 January 2019 The book is now more than 100% funded, which is wonderful. Let's hope sufficient funds continue to be pledged so that Nina and Romané can realise their dream of funding a scholarship in Gerard's name. 

22 January 2019 It's wonderful to see so many pledges flowing in to this crowdfunding page. As I write, the pledge total is up to 87% of the £14,000 required to publish Gerard's memoirs properly, which is wonderful. Gerard's widow Nina and student son Romané were at the WSET graduation ceremony last night in London's Guildhall and told me they would love to be able to establish a scholarship or award in Gerard's name if there is enough of a surplus via Unbound's crowdfunding page for Gerard's absorbing and inspiring book. Both of them have been quite amazed by the sheer quantity and quality of all the tributes that have been flowing in from all over the world. 

Romané is studying French at King's College, London, and is planning to spend part of next academic year on an internship with Moët & Chandon in Champagne. Nina and her recently widowed father are planning to rent a house there for some of the time. Nina is hoping to organise a memorial to Gerard in London some time in March. We'll publish details here when we know them.

Some of the memories and tributes that have landed in my Inbox include this observation from America's first Master Sommelier Fred Dame: 'A great loss for the industry and civilisation.'

And fellow wine communicator Joe Wadsack remembers: 'HUGE loss. Gerard gave me my first glass of wine when I was 12, after I passed my Winchester entrance exam, at Chewton Glen. Gundlach Bundschu Merlot 1980 with saddle of lamb, followed by Dr Parcé Vieilles Vignes Banyuls 1967 with iced chocolate parfait. Dad was head chef then.'

21 January 2019 As promised in Farewell Gerard, far too early, below are details of the crowdfunding initiative for the absorbing and inspiring memoirs of Gerard Basset, who died on Wednesday after a two-year battle with cancer of the oesophagus. Pledge here

As you will see, despite the fact that the pledge page was not officially launched and was accessible only from my obituary and from a subsequent online report by Drinks Business, more than half the total needed has been raised already, so respected and loved was Gerard. This is a way not only of supporting his widow Nina and student son Romané, but also of ensuring you will get a copy or copies of the book when it is published.

Despite an unpromising upbringing and early career, once he fell in love with hospitality and wine, Gerard was nothing if not determined. Part of his relentless thirst for knowledge and inspiration was his interest in self-help books. He devoured them. So when in 2017 he had to give up his usual work commitments to concentrate on medical treatment, he decided he would write one of his own – his extraordinary life story that took him from being a school dropout to becoming the World's Best Sommelier on his sixth attempt (photos by Jean Bernard). 

With the determination and good taste that characterised his life as a wine professional, once he had a finished manuscript he asked Felicity Carter, fastidious editor of Meininger's Wine Business International, to edit these inspirational memoirs. 

She comments: 'When Gerard asked me to edit his book, I worried a bit about what shape a manuscript written by a non-native English speaker would be in. As it turned out, Gerard's written English was flawless. When he was studying for his MW, he'd spent hours with The Economist, painstakingly analysing the article style, and trying to copy it. It's this kind of detail that makes his book so interesting—Gerard wasn't a champion by accident. He took the approach of an Olympic athlete in everything he did, immersing himself in rigorous training regimes. I found some of his insights useful for my own work. The only downside to working on the book was telling Gerard we had to cut at least 50,000 words, many of them documenting the triumphs of other sommeliers. It was the only thing we had a disagreement over, because he wanted to give everybody their full due and celebrate them for their achievements. Gerard was a deeply kind and decent person who loved teaching. Although he didn't live to see his book come to fruition, it will enable him to keep inspiring and mentoring people through his writing.'

Gerard also asked a few of us for advice on how best to see his book published. The result is that Unbound, the international crowdfunded publisher that successfully published more than 100 books last year, has enthusiastically added Tasting Victory – The Life & Wines of the World's Favourite Sommelier to their list of books to be published later this year. They formally launch the crowdfunding initiative today, but I see that many of the hundreds and hundreds of Gerard's admirers who have been contacting Nina have already pledged their support. Unbound are seeking a total of £14,000 to cover the costs of publishing this permanent memorial to one of the wine world's greatest achievers and mentors. (Unbound's books were until recently distributed by Penguin Random House but they now have their own sales force.)

A series of pledges, from £25 for one pre-ordered first edition, is on offer to the right of a short video, including clips of Gerard, and a description of the book here

Below, Nina and Romané share Gerard's triumph in Chile in 2010. The funeral will be private but there will be a memorial event in London this spring. Nina is already worrying about how to find somewhere capacious enough for all those who have said they would like to attend. I suggested Wembley.

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