IT’S EASY TO think you are navigating to some impossible-to-find foodie restaurant in the Loire Valley when you approach Hotel TerraVina, the boutique gastro-hotel in the New Forest opened a few years ago by Gerard Basset and his wife Nina. Basset co-founded the original Hotel du Vin group and became World Champion Sommelier in 2010. He and Nina, also a hotelier and the AA’s youngest ever inspector, met while working together at the nearby Chewton Glen and it is their double act at Hotel TerraVina which propels it.
So it is hardly surprising that the restaurant is part cellar, and not at all surprising that the wines are of the first rank. Part of the reason for Basset being awarded an OBE for services to hospitality — surely one of the better ways to win an honour from the Queen — is that he has also mentored an entire new generation of young sommeliers, including TerraVina’s head sommelier Laura Rhys, who won the UK Sommelier of the Year in 2009.
In October, Basset also teamed up with Ruinart to support the development of sommeliers identified as having the talent to succeed at the very best private clubs, hotels and restaurants in the world. Those taken on under specific tutorship will become the Ruinart Fellows, while those joining the more general programme will be known as Artisans.
‘Training within the industry is vital, and who better to mentor the stars of the future than those recognised as the stars of today?’ says Basset over dinner. ‘We hope this will encourage ambitious young sommeliers to reach their full potential, as sommeliers are just as important as chefs in the very best restaurants and wine is often the most profitable part of a restaurant.’
WHEN NOT MENTORING the world’s most ambitious sommeliers, Basset is also a serial wine entrepreneur. His latest enterprise — a series of little-known concept wines under a new label from Bordeaux — has been launched very much with an eye to the UHNW wine connoisseur market. Appropriately, he is launching this new label — called SGC, or Le Secret des Grands Chefs — with an oenophile French hedge-fund manager and a small kitchen of Michelin-starred chefs to produce a new wine label from the Bordeaux appellations Pauillac, Saint-Émilion, Pomerol and Médoc.
As yet, the names of the châteaux chosen remain secret, hence the brand name of Le Secret des Grands Chefs. ‘Of course everyone is clamouring to know who has made these wines,’ he says, ‘but this is a deliberate attempt to make wines that will be judged by their quality alone and not by their label.’
Back at home, he and Nina have just launched the Dining Room at TerraVina, a pop-up restaurant operating alongside the main restaurant, but exclusively from Saturdays to Mondays with a nine- or twelve-course tasting menu that comprises dishes made entirely from produce sourced or foraged from Hampshire and Dorset, from the bread flour to the sea herbs; even the plates are made from local bark and cocktail sticks from New Forest hawthorn. It is a true celebration of the richness of the area, with stand-out dishes including pumpkin and Dorset truffle velouté and Lymington landed turbot with hand-picked tidal greens.
Needless to say, the real stars are the wines Basset chooses to accompany each course. With the SGC range complementing his already impressive cellar, Hotel TerraVina looks set to become even more of a magnet for lovers and aficionados of fine wine.
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The SGC range is being exclusively sold by Hedonism Wines from £291 per bottle; a mixed case is available for under £1,000. hedonism.co.uk
The Dining Room at TerraVina operates on Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights. The nine-course tasting menu is £72pp (£85pp
for twelve courses). hotelterravina.co.uk