Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, the Asia-based luxury hotel group, has appointed one of the most esteemed professionals in wine, Gerard Basset OBE, as the group’s first wine ambassador. The U.K.-based French native won the 2010 Best Sommelier in the World title and is the only person ever to simultaneously hold the Master of Wine, Master Sommelier and MBA Wine honors. Basset will work alongside Yang Lu, Shangri-La’s corporate wine director on enhancing the group’s wine program and nurturing its talented hotel sommeliers.
“We are excited to partner with Gerard Basset, one of the most respected sommeliers in the industry, to elevate our brand’s cellar offerings and enrich guests’ wine experiences at our properties,” says Peter Finnegan, Shangri-La’s group director of food and beverage. “At the same time, our sommeliers will spend dedicated tutorial and training sessions with Gerard to enhance their beverage knowledge.”
Basset is known throughout the industry for inspiring and mentoring a generation of young sommeliers as well as for sharing his expert knowledge with professional and amateur wine enthusiasts.
In his role as Shangri-La Wine Ambassador, Basset will oversee a training program for the group’s sommeliers and be among the judges for Shangri-La’s Best Sommelier Competition. There will also be a premium event that will enable wine connoisseurs and amateurs to join Basset and top sommeliers from the group to discover and compare wine styles and test their palates over a wine-paired dinner at Shangri-La Hotel, Beijing.
Shangri-La began working with Basset last year, when he was invited to judge the group’s first sommelier competition as well as lead a series of professional development programmes for its sommeliers. Shangri-La invests heavily in training and is one of the few hotel companies to work directly with the esteemed Court of Master Sommeliers and to have a tailor-made training environment and certification process to develop internal wine talents.
“To work with such a highly prestigious and notable hotel group as Shangri-La enables me to be continuously involved in luxury hospitality at the highest level,” says Basset. “It’s a great privilege to share my years of experience with budding sommeliers and to help develop both their careers and sense of curiosity.”
Shangri-La has been focused on expanding and enhancing its wine offerings, in particular in mainland China where Shangri-La is the most recognized luxury hotel brand and where wine appreciation and consumption continues to rise. In 2013, Shangri-La launched a Wine Programme that enhanced its wine-by-the-glass as well as cellar offerings in hotels in China and Hong Kong.
This year, working with the company’s corporate wine director, Basset will review Shangri-La’s extensive wine selections to ensure they are well structured, balanced and showcase established wine estates worldwide, as well as artisanal and exciting wines from boutique producers. Basset will also share educational information such as buying tips, market trends and wine pairing advice with followers on Shangri-La’s Facebook and Twitter.
Along with many professional honors to his name, Basset is also Honorary President of the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET), as well as President of the Court of Master Sommeliers. He was nominated “Man of the Year” in 2013 by Decanter Magazine.