Lise Donier-Meroz, a sommelier at two Michelin-starred L’Enclume, was awarded the inaugural Gerard Basset Travel Bursary at a dinner at 67 Pall Mall.
The fundraising dinner, which took place on 1 February, also celebrated the life of Gerard Basset OBE, MS, MW, MBA, OIV, MSc, who died last January from cancer at the age of 61.
Guests at the event shared their memories of Basset, and at one point, chef Raymond blanc led the French contingent in a rousing rendition of La Marseillaise in his memory.
The judges who helped to determine the scholarship recipient – Nina and Romané Basset, Ronan Sayburn MS, Tim Atkin MW and Laura Rhys MS – said that the standard of entries had been “extremely high”.
Donier-Meroz triumphed as they felt she best encapsulated the spirit of the travel bursary.
Nina Basset added: “Lise’s application was well-written, and we liked that she will use the funds to explore the whole South American continent, using eco forms of travel once she gets there. She’s an exciting new talent, and we feel she will be a shining ambassador for sommellerie. Gerard would definitely have approved!”
As part of her prize, Donier-Meroz has been given a £5,000 bursary and will receive help from the judges in planning and organising her trip around South America.
Accepting her award, Donier-Meroz said: “Travelling has always been an important part of my life. As soon as I started my apprenticeship at 16 years old, I put all my savings towards a South Africa trip and it was on this unforgettable journey that I fell in love with wine and knew I wanted it to be my career.
“I cannot wait for my South American adventure! I have literally never felt more grateful than I do to the judges for what will be a life-changing opportunity. I am so proud to have been chosen to be a representative for the UK’s young sommeliers, and I will do so carrying the values and drive of my first ever inspiration and model, Monsieur Basset.
“I followed my heart with my choice of destination, and through its diversity of climates, cultures and histories, South America emerged as the natural choice.
“I will spend time in Chile and Argentina, but knowing me, my focus will be on the less popular areas such as Uruguay and Brazil. And I have set myself the challenge of travelling in an ecological way, as I wish every wine lover could realise how important it is to give health and respect to our planet Earth.”