Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Raimonds Tomsons
Please allow me to introduce to you the winner of the 2017 ASI Best Sommelier of Europe title, 36 year old Latvian top sommelier Raimonds Tomsons.
Riamonds is another great example of a sommelier who has found his passion working as he didn't do restaurant related studies. In fact after his studies he started working at restaurant Vincents in Riga in 1999 as commis and today he works in this same restaurant as head sommelier after passing all stations that they have at the restaurant. You can for sure say he is a very loyal worker as working for the same restaurant for 18 years isn't very common in HoReCa. It speaks for itself that Riamonds passion grew over the years with the recent European sommelier title as a result. Something to look up to I'd say.
To prepare himself for the international competitions he obtained after studying many many hours) his WSET Level 4 Diploma at Weinakademie in Austria. I followed the European championship and I can say he is a worthy winner and I'm looking forward seeing him in Antwerp in 2019 for the ASI World Championships as I'm sure we haven't heard the last of him!!
Today Raimonds combines his job at VIncents with being board membre of the Latvia Sommelier Association and his work as wine consultant
Please feast you eyes on what our champion has to say
What is your favorite wine region to work with?
This is a difficult question to answer because there are so many great wines out there, and I always was very open-minded to all kind of wines, it is the customer, food and the occasion which defines the choice of wine. But I really enjoy the diversity of Austrian and German wines, both, white and red!
What does it take to be a good sommelier according to you?
A good sommelier of course has a good theoretical background, a polished taste and perfect service skills, but in my opinion, it is the communication with the customer which is the most important and also difficult in the same time. A good sommelier should always put the customer and his wishes in front, he has to be humble and open-minded and he has to feel and use his knowledge in the right moment! To do that, you have to work with yourself all the time, taste, study, travel, meet winemakers, understand and respect, how much work and love stands behind a bottle of wine! And we have to share all this experience and emotions with our customers!
Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?
I definitely think that in the main markets like UK, USA, Germany etc., a great sommelier is highly valued by the restaurant owners and most importantly also by the customer! In our small country this still is not the case. There are still good restaurants with great chefs but missing a wine waiter or sommelier who could create a good wine list and add a value to the whole concept of the restaurant! Also what I feel, that the restaurant owners still do not realize that hiring a good sommelier can bring a financial benefit!
When and how did you get the passion for wine?
I started to work at restaurant Vincent’s in 1999 as a trainee, then became a waiter and head waiter and in 2006 had the chance to take over the wine list and management. Dealing with very fine cuisine, a great chef and a wide range of wines I found my passion and, of course, the knowledge was missing, so I started to read wine books, taste wines with different cuisine and also travel to finest restaurant abroad with my chef and started to gather information. Also taking part in competitions was very important for me, because these tough preparations and studying make you feel confident and stronger.
Who is your big example in the wine/sommelier world?
There are so many personalities in the sommelier world but two great ones for me are Andreas Larsson and Gerrard Basset.
What is your approach for pairing wines (or other beverages) with
Of course, we all know the basics how all the elements of wine react with specific style of a classic dish, but nowadays the chefs are so creative building very complex combinations of flavors. So for me, still the best way to find a perfect pairing is to taste the dish with several wines. At restaurant Vincent’s we try to taste a new dish together with my assistant and also our chef, because they might not have the knowledge but they have a very polished and sensitive palate. And to tell the customer at the restaurant that we found this wine together with our chef for this dish is a perfect selling tool as well!
Which wine region would you recommend everybody to visit and why?
Austria is a great winemaking country! I still can see that the end consumer has not realized that Austria is capable of producing not only one of the greatest white wines of the world but also offers great red wines form authentic local varieties as Zweigelt, St. Laurent and Blaufrankisch and also wonderful wines from Styria. Besides that, the landscape and countryside is so beautiful with great local food and people are really friendly.
For which wine would you make a big sacrifice to be able to taste?
I hope my wine journey will continue for many years and I will have the possibility to taste the great wines of the world without sacrificing, but it would be very interesting to see how the great wines of France, be it Champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux etc., would taste before phylloxera!
What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school or
My studies at the Austrian Wine academy in Rust. It was a great time with great lecturers and new friends from the entire world. The knowledge I gained there helped me better to understand and respect wine and the hard work behind it!
A culinary or wine experience everybody should have had besides
have a meal at your restaurant, shop, winery, etc..?
One of my greatest memories is from restaurant El Bulli. I was together with my Chef and we enjoyed a bottle of Château Rayas blanc. A great memory and experience!