Raimonds Tomsons, 36, who is a popular and well known Riga based sommelier working at the legendary Vincents Restaurant (with noted Chef Martins Ritins), won the prize recently in Vienna where the competition was based,.. after a “gruelling final round of competition tasks” that went on for several hours.
After starting out as an assistant waiter at Vincents restaurant, Tomsons became its chief sommelier in 2006, and has been in an ideal position to learn and develop his knowledge base ,..by developing a superb wine list and offering some of the most prestigious and iconic wine brands to Vincent’s sophisticated and demanding clientele comprised of EU officials,.local Politicians and the occasional oligarch, and local millionaires not to mention well informed expats and visiting celebrities.
“The famous Celebrity Chef Martins Ritins has probably cooked for more Nato, Presidential or Diplomatic event dinners then any other Chef in Europe,….. and Tomsons has been actively involved in selecting and serving the wine.”
The list of VIP Celebrity guests at Vincents includes Prince Charles,.David Cameron, Elton John and many others..
Returning back to the story however,..
None other then Guillaume Deglise, Vinexpo CEO, ……(whom I had the pleasure of introducing to Vincents Restaurant all those many years ago,..(In the year 1999 iff my memory serves me correct) when he arrived as the new Baltic and Nordic Region Representative for Champagne Bollinger)…..…awarded the Vinexpo trophy to Raimonds Tomsons.
As mentioned Tomsons is an incredibly likeable and charismatic Latvian sommelier working with Chef Mārtiņš Rītiņš in Vincents.But most importantly He has worked in world-class restaurants such as El Bulli, Noma and Osteria Francescana.
In 2016, he took seventh place at the ASI World Sommelier competition in Argentina.
From an insiders point of view Tomsons success also needs to be shared by his erstwhile friend and mentor British Latvian Martins Ritins who dominated the Latvian Food scene for 2 decades.He is also the local leader of the slow Food movement .He has trained several generations of new Chefs and played a major role in educating the Latvian Public with his Television Cooking shows and effectively introduced the Latvian Public to a variety of European cuisines and exotic ones alike.
On a personal note ,..After I published my highly successful best selling first Latvian language Wine book “Vina Pasaule”(The World of Wine ) and organized the first Latvian Wine Festivals ,..Martins invited me onto his TV shows where I waffled on about commercial wine and we indulged the audience with “fun and banter”
He still struts the restaurant scene like a “Colusses on the Gastronomic stage”and has a “well oiled publicity machine”.Since the restaurant Vincents was founded in 1994, it has grown to become one of the premier gourmet establishments in Eastern Europe with a well deserved reputation for Fine Dining mixed with celebrity appeal and cache” .
There is a very long list of prominent personalities and famous gourmands who have savoured the restaurant’s “haute cuisine”.
Its reputation has spread far beyond Latvia’s borders, with Prince Charles, The Queen, Elton John, the Emperor of Japan, Prince Andrew,BBKing , Angel Merkel, George Bush and so the list goes on.
To his credit ,As a masterful communicator and Top Chef , he has had a huge influence on the development of gastronomy in this Baltic country and a whole new generation of Chefs.
Martins Ritins has always mentored his staff and given them every opportunity to develop and I am certain that Raimonds would acknowledge the opportunities he received to develop into a world class champion.
When visiting Vincents ,it is not just about the food but it is a “dining experience like genuflecting in a culinary temple”, and it is a place to be seen.
According to Tomsons “My success was a he said, was based on “a lot of personal work, the support of a team and the advice of the Best Sommelier of the World 2007, the Swedish Andreas Larsson”.
According to our sources and other shared articles,.. the competition was composed of the following steps:
-Raimonds and the the other three finalists (from France, Poland and Romania) had to open a magnum bottle of Champagne and rapidly fill 18 glasses — with the exact same amount in each glass.
-They then had to choose a Japanese sake for an aperitif and explain why, before choosing which grands crus wines to serve during an imagined meal to celebrate a president’s six years in office.!!??
Well ,..I can’t help commenting,…Raimonds has done this before!
-During the blind tastings, they had to identify an Italian wine and then reveal within three minutes the complex characteristics of a French calvados brandy.
Last but not least, they were given photos of different vineyards and wine growers and tasked with identifying each precisely.
Accoridng to the official reports ,…“Throughout the tests of both taste and nerves, Tomsons maintained his “Swedish like composure”(Don’t underestimate the impact of the Swedish based genepool left by the marauding Vikings in Latvia and the Baltics in years gone by) while putting years of study and experience on the line.”“He is fast, he is a charmer, I felt like he was an ice skater, it was like watching ice skating — without any effort, such a beauty!” said Gerard Basset, chairman of the European Sommelier Championship Committee, said ,..“The candidate has to be able to control himself, to perform at the right time, to mentally prepare himself… It is a real sport!.”
Tomsons said he hoped the prize would inspire his colleagues in fine dining back home to take up similar challenges.
“I think it will be a huge motivation that a small country like Latvia can do a big thing,” he said.“You have to put your theoretical knowledge and charisma in front of the customer and most important, you have to make him feel humble, elegant and very comfortable.”
According to official sources ,..The previous winner, a Swede, was crowned in 2013, and the next competition will be held in 2019 in Antwerp, Belgium.
**The 14th ASI contest to determine the best sommelier in Europe and Africa took place in Vienna from 8 to 13 May 2017.
In all, 37 sommeliers came to Austria with one objective—to win the title as Arvid Rosengren did in 2013 in Sanremo, Italy.
For the first time, three sommeliers represented Africa, while 34 candidates were registered from Europe.The first stage, which involved several written and practical tests, took place on Tuesday, 9 May.At the end of this stage, twelve candidates were selected for the semi-finals:
Christian Jacobsen (Denmark),
David Biraud (France),
Terry Kandylis (Greece),
Julie Dupouy (Ireland),
Raimonds Tomsons (Latvia),
Piotr Pietras (Poland),
Julia Scavo (Romania),
Aleksandr Rassadkin (Russia),
Jakub Pribyl (Czech Republic),
Eric Zwiebel (United Kingdom),
Robert Andersson (Sweden),
Fabio Masi (Switzerland).
Gerard Basset, MW, MS, OBE, Best Sommelier in the World 2010, announced that time due to the very high level of competition, four finalists were selected instead of the usual three:
Piotr Pietras (Poland),
David Biraud (France),
Julia Scavo (Romania),
Raimonds Tomsons (Latvia)
After the final round of intense tasks, the winner was named:
Guillaume Deglise, Vinexpo CEO, awarded the Vinexpo trophy to Raimonds Tomsons.