Travel, taste, learn… is this the best somm prize ever?

One day – hopefully soon – we’ll be able to travel again. To sit looking out over gently rustling vines with a glass in our hand and the sun on our back.

And think how much better it would be if you had been given the money to do it.

Because that’s what could happen if you win this year’s Gerard Basset Travel Bursary.

We caught up with Lise Donier-Meroz who won the first Bursary last year when she was at L’Enclume.

Sadly for the UK somm scene, Lise is currently in Switzerland due to Covid, though she’s hoping to return once the UK opens up again.

Equally sadly the pandemic’s freeze on global travel means she hasn’t yet been able to use the £5,000 prize to go on her planned trip to South America’s wine regions.

But she was happy to tell Sommelier Collective where she’s going to go when she gets the chance, and how you could put in a winning application!

So how do you apply for the bursary?

You need to write a mini 500 words essay about where and how you would use the £5k. The choice of destination and the words you put into it are very personal. I think it needs to be somewhere that really matters to you, and would benefit your future in the industry – so career, studying etc. 

What do you think the judges are looking for?

I believe the judges want to read passion, thrill and ambition. They also mentioned last year that they liked the idea of a more ecological, greener way of travelling. I decided to limit the number of planes I would take during my South America trip to just the intercontinental flights. I will try to move between countries by bus or train and maybe car for more remote areas. My big challenge would be to cross the Andes on horseback!

Why did you choose South America for your trip?

It was by far the part of the world I knew the least about. So I believed it would be very beneficial to my knowledge, and also a great challenge.

Where were you planning to go?

I wanted to spend one month in Chile, one in Argentina and a couple of weeks in Uruguay and/or Brazil (depending on the budget I had left 😃). The idea is to visit wineries, to meet vignerons and discover all the secrets of the vineyards.

Did you have contacts out there?

The judges and the amazing people I met at the Scholarship dinner introduced me to incredible people from the wine scene in those different countries, to help me improve my itinerary. I was also very keen on doing a bit of cellar/vineyard work in some places, because what better way is there to learn? I want to meet local sommeliers, discover restaurants and wine lists, and even do a couple of stages if possible.

What advice do you have for anyone applying this year?

I would suggest people write with their hearts, be true and sincere, and really put emphasis on how travelling is important to their career and development.  The judges want to see that you would be a great ambassador of UK sommellerie and, furthermore, the legacy of Gerard Basset.

Entrants for the Travel Bursary have until Monday 28th May, 2021 to send in their applications. Contact for details.