14th June, 2019 by Patrick Schmitt
Gerard Basset’s “magic combination of charm and determination” was celebrated this morning at a service of thanksgiving in Winchester Cathedral.
Providing a beautifully-crafted and touching tribute to Basset at the memorial was Jancis Robinson OBE, MW, who addressed leading figures from right across the world of wine, all of whom had gathered at the stunning Gothic cathedral to mark the life of this famously high-achieving sommelier, hotelier, wine personality and author.
Recalling how she had first met Gerard at Chewton Glen – the top-end hotel that launched his career in the UK – Jancis said that she was struck by Gerard’s ability to “give people what they wanted, not he”, as well as his “Poirot moustache” and “cheeky grin”.
From then on, she said how Gerard “kept popping up like a benign cork”, and applauded him for being “far from a wine bore”, while praising his “global legacy”, which, she said, was “his deep love of wine’.
Concluding her tribute, she said that Gerard had “a magic combination of charm and determination that will remain with us forever”.
Also paying tribute to Gerard was his son, Romané, who read Farewell My Friends by Rabindranath Tagore, before telling the congregation that they should remember his father by “perfecting their approach” to wine, which, Romané added, was Gerard’s “passion and his life”.
Meanwhile, Winchester Cathedral’s The Reverend Canon Roland Riem, said that Gerard had made the absolute most of his gifts, while stressing that he was both “admired” and “loved”.
Ahead of this, as he opened the service of thanksgiving, he asked the congregation to “smile with Gerard and savour a life well-lived.”
Gerard was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus in 2017 and underwent a course of chemotherapy before undergoing a major operation in February 2018. Sadly, in July, it was confirmed that the cancer had returned, and in November, he was given a terminal diagnosis and a 6-12 months life expectancy, before dying on 16 January aged 61.
While undergoing treatment Gerard wrote his memoirs, which detail the “life and wines of the world’s favourite sommelier”, his 30-year career in the hospitality industry and rise to the very top of his field.
Called Tasting Victory, the book is being published by Unbound – a website that employs crowd funding to bring books to the market. Please click here to make a donation, which includes a copy of the book when published.
Winchester Cathedral was chosen for the memorial service because the city held a special place in Gerard’s heart, as it was here that Gerard opened the inaugural Hotel du Vin, the hugely successful wine-focused chain of hotels he founded with hotelier Robin Hutson.