Name: Nina Basset –
Nationality: UK –
At the moment: UK
ASI General Secretary, Founding Trustee of The Gerard Basset Foundation
Info and more than welcome to join or support the: gerardbassetfoundation.org/
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry. Did you have any particular mentors?
I was interested in wine from my time at Hotel School, when I was studying for a degree in Hotel Management. However, my love for wine, the world of wine and Sommellerie grew when I met my husband, Gerard Basset. All of my holidays were spent in vineyards and my life was immersed in wine thanks to him and his passion. He was my greatest mentor.
What specific traits or skills should a Sommelier(e) possess for professional performance and is there any person with those qualities you especially admire within the wine industry?
A love and understanding of people. Humility and friendliness. A passion for the industry and a love of wine. Business acumen and an ability to manage a cellar and understand a profit and loss account and the importance of cash flow. Be generous in sharing their knowledge and expertise not only with their customers but equally with young Somms entering the profession and those who want to develop and improve through education and mentoring. We have a wealth of very talented Somms here in the UK and it is a very exciting profession to be involved with.
What would be your advice to a young Sommelier(e)? How to find a good position at home or abroad? Any further tips?
Immerse yourself in the world of wine. Read, study, listen to podcasts, keep abreast of the trends in the wine world, and network with like-minded Somms. Develop through travel and education. Winemakers are welcoming, they are hospitable, and generally friendly and kind- visit as many wineries as possible. Gain qualifications such as ASI Certification and ASI Diploma, Court of Master Sommelier Certification, Advanced and Master qualifications, WSET Levels 1-3, and Level 4. Network with fellow Somms and attend tastings as often as possible. Such knowledge and experience will ensure confidence when advising guests. Networking helps when looking to develop within your career. I think all Somms should spend time working in London as London provides precious experience and opportunities to meet, train, taste, and network with so many strands within the world of wine. Clubs such as 67 Pall Mall are great for Somms to gravitate to and learn within. Travel as much as you are able to broaden your knowledge and experience. The career of a Somm can be global so seize every opportunity to work around the world.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what, in your opinion, would be the best approach?
Chat to the guest, and ask pertinent questions. Try to ascertain what styles of wine they like, and what they usually enjoy. Do they want to opt for a similar style or try something different and offer a range of prices so the guests can make an informed choice.
What is your philosophy about glasses? Are you working with well-known brands or are you considering new brands as well. How do you decide?
As I am not working as a Somm on the floor, I can only answer generally- Glasses are intrinsic to wine… they go hand in hand together. The right styles, size and shape of glassware enhances the flavours of the wine so the right glasses are vital in my opinion
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
Eat and drink what you personally like as a pairing. Taste is very personal and there should not be too much rigidity in the rules. Experimenting is fun and can sometimes bring about spectacular results ina food and wine matching.
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest’s wine?
Yes, I think the wine should be tasted by an expert and experienced palate prior to the guest being served the wine, but only with the agreement of the guest prior to the Somm doing so.
What are the key ingredients for creating a wine list for a restaurant and what is your opinion on pricing wine in restaurants, do you have tips on how to determine markups?
Again, I can only answer generally. Personally, as a guest, I like a list that is very clear and easy to navigate- with wines organised by style as my personal preference. It should be as up-to-date as possible with correct vintages and if wines are unavailable temporarily then this should be noted with a spot sticker so the guest is not disappointed at the time of ordering. Likewise, vintage changes should also clearly be pointed out.. ideally, the list needs to be easily reprinted to avoid lots of changes within it and thus lots of spot stickers. Price wine fairly and give the perception of good value. Better guest is encouraged to drink even better wines than they would have perhaps chosen due to the fact that your pricing offers good value and it may encourage them to have a second bottle. Too high prices will put the guest off of exploring the list. I love the idea of places such as Hawksmoor where they have their Monday corkage which is very low and enables you to enjoy your own bottles.. but most guests still buy drinks and wine from their list too, so it’s a great way of filling the restaurants on historically quiet nights.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
Reading, listening to podcasts, attending tastings, chatting to Somms in restaurants, and networking.
How would a new vineyard get their wine noticed and what is the best way for producers to improve their chances of being listed?
Inclusion in IWSC, Decanter Wine Awards, tastings for wine journalists, and Somms. Invite Somms to visit the vineyard, speak to the winemaker so they have ss troy to tell their restaurant guests. Make it as easy as possible for Somms to receive their wines and suggest wine flights, wine pairings, and tasting notes from the winemaker for the Somms to share with their guests.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
I cannot choose one, so Palo Cortado Sherry, Ice Wine, and White Burgundy would come to mind. I was once described (in the best man’s speech at my wedding as a Riesling style of wine)- I love Riesling!
Which top 3 types of wine (your faves would we find in your home wine collection and what’s your desert island wine?
Tricky one as I like so many styles but my top three favourites are Madeira, Champagne and Burgundy- not only do I love the styles for their taste but each region has very personal reasons and happy memories for me to love them too. My desert island wine would be Champagne- I never tire of the bubbles.
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platforms?
Club Oenologique Magazine, the newly launched ASI magazine, Sommeliers International and Terre des Vins are all great reads. I love Tim Atkins and Sarah Kemp podcasts too and the Sommelier Collective is a good platform for Somms, as will the newly launched United Kingdom Sommelier Academy platform be too once it is launched later this year.
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers – www.sommelier-jobs.com