Nina Basset: “I think to become involved in hospitality, the most important thing is you have to love people”

United Kingdom

Nina Basset, FIH Hotelier, Mentor, Co-Founding Trustee and Chair of the Gérard Basset Foundation, Co-Founder and Vice President of the UK Sommelier Academy, kindly agreed to share her experience in the hospitality and wine industries. In her interview with Oleksandra Hryhorieva, Project Lead of the Wine Travel Awards, where Nina became a judge, she also talked about activities and projects of the Foundation. This is a longread that may give you some insights and incentives to act. 

Dear Nina, on behalf of the whole WTA team, I would like to express our gratitude for joining the pool of judges of the WTA second edition. We perceive this as a kind of feat for the sake of our project because we know what an incredible workload you have. And the first question will relate to the order of job titles you mentioned in your bio. Why did you not choose “Co-Founding Trustee” or “Chair” of famous and solid organisations but rather “seasoned hotelier” to put in the first place in your resume?

Seasoned hotelier, it’s what I’ve been doing for the last probably 30 years. I entered the hospitality business when I was very young and so hospitality to me has always been a huge part of my life and also Gérard’s life when he was alive. Hotelier is something that I still identify as being because it’s shaped who I am and what I’ve done. And then within that, obviously, I’ve also mentored people. Then as time has progressed and life has changed, the setting up of the Foundation has become something very important for all sorts of reasons, one of which is because my son, Romané who’s also a co-founding trustee, and I wanted to ensure that Gérard’s legacy and memory was continued. And we wanted to focus on something that was very important to him, which was education and mentoring. So, the foundation is very much set up to help support young people who are wanting to come into the drinks, wines and spirits or hospitality industries, but cannot see a way to do so. It might be through inclusivity issues or diversity issues or economical or ethical reasons. And so we tried to make their path into the industry easier through funding educational programmes, through helping them with internships, through helping organisations as well as individuals to fund education programmes. It’s become something that’s very dear to our hearts because we know that Gérard would have been very proud to have his name associated with such a foundation.

Please, tell us about the Spot in the Woods project, it probably occupies a special place in your life. If I’m not mistaken, you started it with Monsieur Gérard. In one of his interviews to our media he talked about a small but elegant hotel in Hampshire called TerraVina (which was later conceptually changed to Spot in the Woods), where some of his and your dreams were to come true. I read later that the hospitality there is so thought out down to the smallest detail that rubber boots for walking in the forest and reading glasses are offered if you forgot yours at home. And the restaurant and wine list are outstanding. Is this about the same hotel? 

TerraVina was the hotel that Gérard and I set up after we’d sold our original hotel business, which was called Hotel du Vin. And we had Hotel TerraVina for approximately 15 years and it was very much a wine focused hotel. When Gérard became ill and was unable to be at the hotel as often, we decided to change the style of the hotel. It wasn’t so wine focused because obviously people were coming to TerraVina hoping to see Gérard and when he wasn’t there, it was a disappointment to them. So, instead we changed its concept to a boutique bed and breakfast with a deli and a lifestyle store and less focus on wine. Consequently, we changed its name and we had that business for two years and during those two years, Gerard was very poorly. So when Gérard subsequently passed away, I made the decision to sell the business altogether. We no longer have the hotel Spot in the Woods. So, I guess I’m a retired hotelier.

In fact, behind you as a professional is a whole series of projects in the field of hospitality – Hotel du Vin, Hotel TerraVina, Spot in the Woods. Did you receive an education specifically as a hotelier? Can you tell us about the origins?

Yes, I went to a hotel school. I left school when I was 16. How it works in England is you take exams called, well, in my day they were O levels, but now I think they are GCSEs. And then often people stay on at school and do A levels and then they go on to university. However, when I was 16 and having taken my O levels, I decided that I didn’t want to take A levels or go to university. I wanted to go to a hotel school and do four years of hotel training to become completely focused on a hotel industry career. And I remember my headmistress saying to me: “Why are you doing that? You’re clever and you could do all sorts and why would you want to leave school and become a waitress?” I was so horrified by her attitude that I was determined that I was going to prove her wrong and create a career within hospitality that I would be proud of and that ultimately would show other people like her who were small minded enough to think that it wasn’t important as a career choice. So I went to hotel school. I did four years, which at the time were diplomas, but would be now the equivalent of a university degree in hotel management.

When I left, I went to work at a hotel called Chewton Glen, having spent some time in Paris beforehand doing a work experience “stage”. It was at Chewton Glen where I met Gérard. I stayed there for a year. Then I saw an advert for a hotel and restaurant inspector. Bear in mind, I was only 21, I was very young and I thought, well, that sounds really interesting. I know I’m not going to get the job because I’m completely inexperienced, but I think it would be interesting to go and see what it’s all about and have an interview. Interview practice is never a bad thing. So, I went for the interview and there were a number of rounds of interviews and eating out in restaurants with inspectors and all sorts… And to my amazement, I got the job and so I became the youngest hotel and restaurant inspector ever. There’s never been a younger.

To become an AA Hotel and Restaurant Inspector at 21 y.o. is an incredible, truly great achievement! 

Yes, and I absolutely loved it. It was an amazing experience; I met some incredible people. I did that for just shy of six years. And the reason I stopped was because whilst being an inspector, Gérard and myself and my former boss from Chewton Glen, and at the time, Gérard’s current boss from Chewton Glen, Robin Hutson, had decided that we wanted to co-found a hotel – Hotel du Vin. It was difficult. I couldn’t really be involved in being an hotelier and being a hotel inspector. It was a conflict of interest. So, because the Hotel du Vin needed my help and support at the setting up time, I stepped away from being an hotel and restaurant inspector and became a proper hotelier. That’s sort of how it all started. And then we went on to have a number of hotels before we sold Hotel du Vin. And then Gérard and I never expected to redo another hotel after we sold Hotel du Vin, but we felt we had one more hotel in us. So, that’s how Hotel TerraVina came about.

Over time, how did this activity combine with the wine industry in your life? Was it as unexpected as for Gérard, who went to a football match, and got into the world of wine and for all life?

When I met Gérard, I had already an interest in wine before I met him. And in fact, when I’d gone to hotel school, I had toyed with the idea of slightly changing specialisation and becoming a wine buyer because I enjoyed wine and I liked learning about it. However, I hadn’t done so. When I met Gérard, suddenly all of my holidays were spent in vineyards. And obviously he was travelling quite a lot and I was travelling with him; and he was tasting a lot, so I was helping him taste. My life became very immersed in wine, but the wine industry is a lovely industry to be involved in. So, it wasn’t a hardship.

In one of his interviews, Gérard mentioned that Burgundy was one of his favourite places to visit and he had one of his greatest wine experiences there.

Absolutely. And in fact, our son is named after a Burgundian vineyard. Our son is called Romané as in there’s a lot of vineyards with Romanée as part of their name. It’s their beginning name: Romanée-Conti, Vosne-Romanée, etc. Burgundy was very close to Gerard’s heart, as was Madeira. He loved Madeira wines. And in fact, one of our dogs was called Malmsey, after a type of Madeira wine.

This is definitely a creative approach to choosing names. At one time, you became the youngest winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award for Women in Business. For what merits and under what circumstances did it happen?

To be honest, it is quite a long time ago now, so I can’t remember exactly what the criteria was. However, it was one of those things that somebody had asked me, my acquaintance I knew from when I’d been a hotel inspector. She was actually a hotelier, a very young one. She’d taken over her mother’s business and subsequently she’d started a Women in Business Award. So, we tentatively stayed in touch. She then contacted me to tell me about the awards and encouraged me to be involved. And I happened to be nominated by somebody. The first year I didn’t win, but it was nice to have been nominated.  

The next year, I got invited to be involved again because I had been nominated and done relatively well the previous year. I was put forward, but with no expectations whatsoever. In fact, so much so that on the night of the celebration of the awards, I couldn’t go because Gérard had a big wine event taking place at the Manoir aux Quat’Saisons with Raymond Blanc. He was doing wine dinner with Raymond, and I’d already committed to going to that with Gérard. So, I had to send my apologies that I wouldn’t be at the awards ceremony for the Lifetime Achievement. Anyway, I thought I wasn’t going to win, so not too terrible for me not to be able to attend. I sent my general manager who I didn’t think and nor did she, that she looks like me at all. She asked me: “But you know what, if I have to make a speech?” And I said: “Well, you won’t have to make a speech because I’m not going to win.” And I got a text message during the wine dinner that I had won and that my general manager just left the stage, and she did have to make a speech. Even though she told everybody that she wasn’t me and that she was standing in on my behalf because I couldn’t attend, and that she was thanking everybody who organised the event on my behalf, in the local press, it got reported that she was me and what she said was as if it was me saying it. So, I kind of felt actually that although I did win it, I didn’t really win it because actually everybody thought I was somebody else. But, it was a lovely thing to win. To this day, you know, I’m surprised I did win it because I always thought to receive a lifetime achievement award, you have to be relatively aged. However, somebody did point out once you were a hotel inspector at 20, why wouldn’t you get a lifetime achievement award at 40.

It is well deserved, Nina. Now let’s discuss your current position. If I am not mistaken, you are the vice president of the Academy of Food & Wine Service. Please tell me about the activities of this organisation, its geographical scope, goals, as well as your responsibilities there in particular.

No, it is not totally correct. So, the Academy of Food & Wine Service was something which Gérard was very involved with for a lot of years. It was an important organisation that supported and championed sommellerie and hospitality within the UK. However, in recent years it did become a little bit lost in terms of activities. There wasn’t a lot happening within it. As a result, a lot of the people had stepped away from it. Gérard obviously had passed away. It had been taken over by people whose intentions were very positive. But unfortunately, it wasn’t the most important part of what else they did. So, it sort of slipped by the wayside, really. 

The president, Nicolas Clerc, as was then, was a young chap who I’ve known for a very long time and who Gérard was very fond of. He called me up and he said: “Look, you know, the Academy is a bit of a lost, and it’s not really doing anything. I’d like to recreate something better, more innovative, more exciting for the young sommeliers within the UK because the Academy of Food & Wine Service was not really doing it for them.” And I thought it was a great idea, so I agreed to help him. 

The Academy of Food & Wine Service is no longer active. It’s not affiliated to the ASI because we’ve recreated something new and fresh and exciting. And that’s called the United Kingdom Sommelier Academy that is now affiliated to ASI. This is very important because it means that within the UK by being affiliated, anyone who wins the UK Sommelier of the Year automatically becomes part of the ASI organisation and can compete in European competitions, ASI World Champion competitions, should they be eligible and at the level to do so. I’m Vice President of the UK Sommelier Academy, which has replaced the Academy of Food & Wine Service. And whilst we’re very fledgling, we have exciting plans. We have just held the United Kingdom Sommelier competition a couple of months ago. And we hold examinations in affiliation with the ASI certification and diplomas for a number of students we mentor. I’m in London for three days next week doing some training sessions with eight sommeliers to help them with competition preparation and so on. So, it’s an exciting involvement and I would say for me it keeps a connexion with sommellerie and wine, but it’s a connexion which is very enjoyable, not just because of my connexion to Gérard. I’ve been invited because of me and what I can offer, rather because who I was married to. So that’s nice.

Is the Academy open only for UK sommeliers?

The membership is predominantly sommeliers, but certainly restaurant managers, food and beverage managers, anyone really who has a food or beverage career can become involved. However, it is UK based and the reason it’s UK based is because every association within ASI in its own country has its own organisation. We work with other ASI affiliated organisations too. We’re closely affiliated to the Irish Sommelier Guild for example, but to be a member of the UK Sommelier Academy, you have to be based in the UK working within hospitality, wine or spirits business, retail or hotels or restaurants. 

As far as I know, you took this position at the UK Sommelier Academy in 2020, just before the pandemic, which hit this industry the hardest. How did you cope, maybe you can share some life hacks?

We worked on the project during COVID. We had endless Zoom meetings and it all was created by email and Zoom because we could not meet up. We had to postpone our sommelier examinations and the UK Sommelier of the Year competition because of COVID. In July, when we did the UK Sommelier Academy’s first competition, that was the first one in two years because of the pandemic. 

Please share your thoughts on effective ways to become a true food & wine service specialist? Which global networks of educational institutions, in your opinion, are better to choose as today there is such a variety of schools, courses, academies? Where exactly did your son Romané study? He followed in the footsteps of his parents, didn’t he?

Obviously, to have a specific education within any career, whatever industry is useful, but I think for some people, it’s not necessary. Some people just don’t like studying, they don’t like taking exams. For those people a hands-on experience of learning will be what suits them better. That is why, in my opinion, to become involved in hospitality, the most important thing is you have to love people and not just because you’re going to be serving people and offering them hospitality experience, but also because you’re going to be working within a team of people. And working within that team is very important because hospitality demands an awful lot of you in terms of the hours you put in. Working within a team of people, you have to have a camaraderie. It becomes an extended family. If you don’t like people, there’s no point in it. And that’s the first really important thing. 

If you can get to study and you do enjoy education and reading books and certainly travelling, I think that expands experiences which you can then bring into your hospitality career. But I think it’s even more fundamental than that if you’re going to be working in hospitality, then you have to understand what it is that as a customer is important. You have to experience being a customer at any level. It doesn’t have to be a Michelin star level restaurant. It can be at any level. You know, just being a customer in a coffee shop or a cafe is equally as important in terms of understanding what it is that people want from a hospitality experience. And that experience can be literally just buying a coffee on your way to work or sitting having a tasting menu with friends. Thereafter, obviously if you decide that there’s one specific area within hospitality, so it could be wine, it could be becoming a chef, then I think the educational aspects become more important. You can learn through doing courses, reading books and so on. Especially with wine, you have to expand your knowledge by reading about wine as well as travelling to vineyards and visiting wineries. 

So, I think it’s not just one thing that makes it important. It’s a lot of little things which when you stitch it all together, make a patchwork and offer very important aspects that create the best possible way for you to progress and develop within your chosen career. 

Sorry to make you recall the times when you and Gérard were together, but this is a unique figure in the history of mankind – his achievements and experience are unsurpassed. Perhaps, here it will be appropriate to offer our readers to watch a new film you initiated A Life in Wine: Gerard Basset | The World’s Favourite Sommelier | 67 PALL MALL TV. Could you comment on it and share Gérard Basset’s life and work rules. From whom did he learn the profession, how much time did he devote to work? Would it be more correct to ask if you had any rest days at all?

Thank you for sharing the link. The film came about because there’s a private member’s wine club in London called 67 Pall Mall, and they have a TV production company which became very important during the pandemic. They brought vineyard tours and tastings to their members and it’s a really good TV show. They have some great programmes on offer. They approached us and said to Romané and I that they would really like to make a documentary about Gérard and his life. We were delighted to work with them. We worked for nine months with the team and they were brilliant. They did an amazing job. The film is, I think, very watchable and very personable. 

It gives a snapshot into Gérard’s determination in terms of the way he studied and the way education and travel was such a big part of what he did. For him, studying was never a chore or a challenge. It was something that he delighted in. He’d left school with no qualifications because he hadn’t knuckled down at school. He loved the idea of being with people and that camaraderie that comes from working within hospitality. Then, because he was front of house within a food and beverage environment, inevitably he became involved in serving wines. This really fascinated him. There’s so much to learn and once he opened his first wine book, that triggered his love of the subject. It was like the floodgates had opened and he wanted to learn as much as possible, however he could. Wine became his passion. However he always used to say: “I love wine, but I think in order to be a great sommelier, you have to love people more than wine.” 

So, as he progressed in terms of learning and developing his own career, he realised that it was really important to take other people along the journey. He was very keen on supporting and mentoring and nurturing young people within the industry. He became quite famous for having proteges whom he gave a lot of his time and expertise to. He had people who wanted to work with him because they knew that if they worked with him, they would have an all encompassing experience of learning about wine in all different ways. And he gave them a lot of responsibility on very young shoulders, but he was always supportive. So, for example, when he had Hotel du Vin, each of his young, head somms had the responsibility for creating their own wine list for each hotel. It meant that those young people had been given a role to play and a large amount of responsibility at such a young age, they perhaps wouldn’t have been given if working elsewhere. So they felt very supported, but also encouraged. They were very loyal to Gérard. And, you know, even after we sold the hotels, all his proteges still used to come to visit and see him. They were and still are great friends of mine and Romané’s .  They still talk about Gérard with huge respect. I think that’s because they realise that with his help and support it gave them a huge chance within an industry that they were stepping into at a very young age. So, that was a very important part of Gérard’s career: not only his ability to win competitions and study and learn and gain exam qualifications, but it was also to help other people do the same thing because by doing so, it was improving their opportunities within their own careers, but also improving sommellerie as a whole within the UK. 

Perhaps you have a lot of business trips? Which countries could be singled out as exemplary from the point of view of enogastronomic tourism? 

I think one of our favourite places to travel to at the time, it was quite a few years ago that I went there with Gérard, was California. We loved California. And in fact, at one time we had thought that we would probably leave the UK and go to work within the Californian wine industry in some way. It didn’t happen because we had Romané and he didn’t want to leave school. He was just very happy where he was. I loved the wine country, you know, Sonoma and Napa, and Gérard did too. Obviously France was always dear to his heart because he was French and the Champagne region was somewhere that we always loved to be. Equally, his sister lived not too far from the Rhone, so we often used to go to visit her too. Madeira was somewhere that was very dear to Gérard too. We loved going to Madeira and tasting Madeira Wines. Madeira and Sherry, all fortified wines, were something that Gérard absolutely loved. At every opportunity to go to Sherry or Madeira, he would jump at the chance. Certainly the marriage of all those different styles of sherries and the delicious tapas food was always something we loved. However, to say that there was a favourite region or favourite place would be difficult because it would depend on who we were with, what we were doing, whom we were having a tasting with, what the weather was like. I mean, every experience was special for one reason or another. 

Probably somewhere that stands out, because it was so simple but was so beautiful, was when we were in Italy (Tuscany) one time. We were sitting right up high on a hill overlooking vineyards for as far as the eye could see. We were in a very, very simple little taverna where the Italian mama was cooking. There was no choice there. It was just the pasta that she was cooking that day. We could watch her making the pasta parcels in her kitchen. And she brought them out just with some home grown olive oil and some local cheese. And it was just the best meal, I think, that we had for a long, long time. We still used to talk about “do you remember when we went to… and that’s an amazing pasta…” So, sometimes it was the simplest things that made the biggest impact. 

Can you comment on how The Gérard Basset Global Fine Wine Report is developing?

That’s something which Gérard and one of his dearest friends, Lewis Chester, created before Gérard’s death. The first report came out in 2018 and they created a company called Liquid Icons together because they wanted to work together doing something involving wine, but they didn’t really know what. The Global Report was something which they thought would be interesting to do. So, 2018 was the first one. In 2019, Lewis suggested that we renamed it to The Gérard Basset Global Fine Wine Report in honour of Gérard because by then he had passed away. Lewis said: “You know, we gather all of this information from all these amazing people within the wine industry, the offices of wine, sommeliers, wine collectors, wine lovers, wine enthusiasts. Then we produce this report, but actually it could be perceived as being quite dry. We didn’t do very much with it thereafter. So, I think it would be really good if within that we asked people, well, who do you think at this moment and time of the year is making the best wine? And it’s clear for the best wine in Europe or the best wine in the Americas. We create an award and we give an award every year.” 

So, here was Lewis’s idea to come up with The Golden Vines® Awards. And it’s worked very well. People think it’s great for other people to be awarded something for their hard work and effort. So, it’s made the report punchier, I think, and sexier and more interesting, more fun. On the back of that, Lewis said: “Well, if we’re going to give out an award, we ought to have an awards ceremony. So we should have the Golden Vines Awards ceremony each year. And why don’t we do a wine auction? And if we’re doing a wine auction, all of the funds should go to a charity which is then set up in Gérard’s name.” And because previous to that, Romané and I had set up various awards which we needed to have an umbrella that they were all within. Lewis suggested: “We need a foundation and we need to have a remit that is really impactful. I think diversity, inclusivity is something that we need to be addressing within the wine industry.” And Romané and I agreed. If we set up the Gérard Basset Foundation, everything can come under one umbrella. And then if we raised funds within the auction of The Golden Vines® Awards ceremony, that would then be given to the foundation. We can do great things with it. And that’s how, through just the Global Fine Wine Report, how everything else started. Working with somebody like Lewis is incredible because he has an idea and then he runs with it and it gets bigger and bigger and more amazing. So the impact is huge, whereas Romané and I had ideas that were so little. I know Gerard would be so proud of Lewis for what he has created and achieved and all in Gerard’s honour.

We didn’t ever envisage that what would happen has happened, but it is thanks to Lewis driving it forward.  Obviously we’re thrilled that we’ve now got all of these scholars throughout the world and 16 grantees (to date in 2021/2) around the globe who we’re helping and all connected with wine, spirits and hospitality. I think Gérard would be thrilled and humbled to think that his name has been put to something that’s so important for the wine industry. 

To the attention of our readers, the next Golden Vines® Awards ceremony was scheduled for October 14-17 in Florence, where the auction raised over £1.1million for the Gerard Basset Foundation. Talking about the incredible Fine Wine, Rare Spirit & Experience 2022 auction, what do you think will be the standout drinks featured there?

Lewis works very hard all year collecting the auction lots and he has an amazing network of people that he asks to be supportive and they all are enormously supportive and generous. The thing that’s very important for us is that it’s not just about being able to buy fine and rare wines, because if you’re very wealthy, inevitably you can afford to buy such wine. Often what you can’t experience is a specialness of having something else added on, which is what the auction aims to do, is that each individual auction has an experience within it, which is more than just buying amazing wine. That could be lunch with a winemaker, staying overnight at the winery. And sometimes these wineries don’t open their doors to the public, but somehow Lewis manages to get them to do so. So I think it’s the experience of the auction, which makes it special, besides from the fact of the wines that are on offer. And in this year’s auction, there are 107 lots, which in itself is amazing. Some of them go from a starting bid of as little as £500, right up to as much as over £100,000. And they’re all very varied and very different, but each one of them is unique and super special. As with much of what we do within the foundation, it’s all been enabled by Lewis and his incredible and tiny team, within the Liquid Icons, Lewis works so hard to offer such amazing and unique auction lots and the team work so hard to ensure the Golden Vines events are a huge success. It’s incredible. So there’s not one that is more special than another, they are all super special and very diverse. 

Do the raised funds go exclusively for scholarships? Or do you invest in other projects?

All of the funds that are raised are donated to the foundation. For example, last year we raised just a little under £1.3 million. And with that money, we were able to fund all sorts of scholarships. Then we have our headline scholars for the Golden Vines Diversity Scholarships, which last year we had two master of wine students, this year we’ll have three (two Masters of Wine and one Master Sommelier student). They each get awarded £55,000, which pays for their fees for their Master of Wine or Master Sommelier courses and help with their studying and their travelling to various places. Besides, they have an internship programme which includes more than 35 different wineries around the world that they have the opportunity to work within. And again, sometimes they’re internships which ordinarily wouldn’t be able to be offered because they are at wineries where internships are not usual, but they’re opening their doors specifically for Golden Vines scholars. Last year, we had two further scholars who didn’t receive internships, but they had their study fees paid. One was for MS and one was for MW. This year,  we have four Dom Pérignon scholars, which will have the same arrangement. Their fees will be paid, but there’s no wide ranging internships. We have a Hennessy scholar, specific to Spirits with a bursary and a 12 month internship with Hennessy. We have five Artémis Domaines scholarships. These have an internship of up to six months and €20,000. In addition to the other scholars that we have, we also had ten Wine Scholar Guild scholars last year and we’ll have ten this year too.  We also have further scholarships to be announced in the coming months, based within both wine, spirits and hospitality

Then we also have our global funding grantees, of which there are currently 16 of them around the world, and that’s within five different continents. Some examples being, the Pinotage Youth Development Academy set up in South Africa. We have a programme working with indigenous people of Australia within Adelaide University. We have a similar project working with indigenous people of Canada in Okanagan. We have a project working with disabled people within a hospitality and wine focused environment in America. So it’s very diverse.

We recently wrote, in particular, about the establishment of The Artémis Domaines Golden Vines® Victims of Conflict Charity scholarships. Who won it this year, were there Ukrainians among them? 

These scholarships are granted for victims of conflict from anywhere in the world. In addition to that, we have something which we’re quietly doing in the background, where we’re funding people who are specifically impacted by what’s happening in Ukraine and Russia. Some of them are displaced, we’re helping them by paying for educational programmes such as the WSET courses and/or English courses. Some of the people that we’re helping are Russians who have left Russia because they don’t agree with the political situation and have lost their careers. And others are Ukrainians who have had to flee Ukraine. And that’s something that is in addition to the scholarships – we’re helping a number of people in that way. 

Could those people contact you directly? Or what channel of communication did you choose?

Yes, we reached out to the Ukrainian Sommelier Association and various other Ukrainian contacts that we had. We showed what we had available and we’ve had a number of people reach out to us directly too. Various people came to us via having contacted Jancis Robinson and Ian Harris, retired CEO of the WSET, both of whom are trustees of the Foundation, and explained their situation. Jancis passed and Ian then on the details and we all agreed we had to offer help and support. Obviously, we want to help as many people as we possibly can, with some restrictions because of the finances that we have available. That is why this year we hope that the auction will raise even more funds and then we’ll be able to help even more people. 

Let it be so. Are you familiar with the wines of the countries of Eastern Europe and the Caucasus – Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia? Have you been to any of the countries? 

I haven’t visited many of them. Gérard did. Gérard loved Georgia and Ukraine. I’ve tasted the wines of Georgia, specifically orange wines, and I like them very much. And it’s an area that I think I would love to travel to more. The last few years, obviously, travelling to wine places has been difficult because of COVID. However, now the world is opening up and it would certainly be somewhere that I would love to be able to go and visit. Some of the wines that are coming out of such countries are really interesting and have great potential to stand with their heads held high on the world stage.

I hope you will be able to visit Ukraine one day. Thank you very much for your time.

Thank you very much for inviting me. And, you know, I’m thrilled to be involved in the judging with WTA also.  

Author: Oleksandra Hryhorieva