Review by Fiona Duncan, published 28th October 2007.
And here's why Gerard wanted to buy this hotel'. Nina Basset is leading me into the bowels of what was formerly a well-known wedding venue on the suburban fringes of Southampton and the New Forest, now transformed into Hotel TerraVina, with 11 bedrooms, a large, airy restaurant, bar and terrace, a swimming pool - and a massive wine cellar.
The extensive wine cellar at Hotel Terravina is among its biggest draws
"It was used for storage", says Nina, who met her French husband when they were both working at Chewton Glen, on the other side of the forest, "but Gerard knew it would make his perfect cellar, and it has." "C'est magnifique, don't you think?" chimes in Gerard, proudly pointing to the neat new brick vaults filled with carefully labelled bottles.
Basset, you see, lives for wine and wine is at the heart of TerraVina's formula. As co-begetter of the hugely successful Hotel du Vin chain, notable for both the quality and reasonable prices of its accommodation, food and wine, and as a world-class sommelier, Gerard holds impeccable credentials as a "wine hotelier".
His awards are legion, including twice being runner-up in the World Sommelier Championships. "That's brilliant," I say. "Pah, it's terrible," he retorts. "I wanted to win." Not surprisingly, there are many echoes of the Hotels du Vin, not least in the wine list, with some notable star buys.
We drank a white Burgundy, St Aubin, Vincent Girardin at £28.50, and a perfumed, lighthearted Pinot Noir, "Massale", Kooyong, Mornington Crescent at the same price, also available by the glass. They alone were worth the visit, although Rory Duncan, the film-star handsome chef (the kitchen is open to view) is highly accomplished, and the California style food was both delicious and beautifully presented. The menu, though, could be more wide-ranging to match the wines.
Being locals, a couple of girlfriends and I descended on TerraVina, in our eagerness, just two days after it opened, a bit mean as far as fair judgments go because it felt a little stark, echoey and lacking in atmosphere, largely due, I suspect, to the preponderance of new wood, including a bare floor. But I have no doubt that, with the passage of time, the lighting of candles, the addition of a little mood music and the flow of wine, it will mellow.
I'd describe the style as "high quality standard contemporary" but what the hotel currently lacks in personality, it makes up in locally crafted products, from the distinctive staircase and the evocative photographs of the New Forest in each room to the organic toiletries and all the fabrics.
Standards are certainly not in question. As Nina became an AA hotel inspector at the tender age of 21, you can expect, and you get, the best in terms of equipment and service - at extremely reasonable prices.
Many of the rooms, with walk-in showers and separate roll-top baths, have secluded patios or terraces, some huge. Indeed, the smallest has a terrace that's larger than the room itself.
Cleverly, Nina sells it as a "small double", not mentioning the terrace, and then waits for the gasp. The wine and the food have the same ability to impress, and I'm sure that certain je ne sais quoi which only a Frenchman can bring will soon follow.
174 Woodlands Road, Netley Marsh, Southampton (02380 293784 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 02380 293784 end_of_the_skype_highlighting; www.hotelterravina.co.uk) Doubles from £110 per night; breakfast from £9.50.