Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Kaspars Reitups
Please meet Latvian top sommelier Kaspars Reitups. A sommelier that actually wasn’t supposed to be working in HoReCa as he studied Insurance Risk calculation :-) we keep getting surprised by the amount of people who via a sometimes big detour eventually did end-up working in HoReCa and becoming sommelier or maybe rather finding themselves a passion they initially though that wasn’t there. The Key-word is determination, as with that you can achieve everything!!
The reason why Kaspars decided to change, was because during his studies he noticed that the job he would eventually be doing seemed like a job with always the same routine... doing the same thing over and over, day in day out. The total opposite of a job in HoReCa. It was also during those studies or better at the jobs he did over the weekends and holidays in local restaurants, etc... that he started feeling the wine bug circling around :-)
He started his career in HoReCa working as waiter for restaurant Tallink, but it wasn't until working under wings of top sommelier Raimonds Tomsons at top Riga restaurant Vincents that the wine bugs bit him :-) After a few years of gaining lots of knowledge and learning from Raimonds, Kaspars thought it was time to spread his wings and started working as head-sommelier at top Scottish restaurant Cail Bruich in Glasgow.
After his Scottish adventure Kaspars returned to Latvia to open restaurant Barents together with the previous head-chef of Vincents and start working as head-sommelier.
For somebody who wasn't supposed to work in HoReca Kaspars has already walked a very nice path, not forgetting to mention that he is 3 time winner of the Best Sommelier of Latvia contest (2014, 2018, 2019) and 2 time winner of the Best Baltic sommelier competition (2014, 2019). Let's also not forget to mention his WSET degree.
Enjoy the read!!
What is your favorite wine region to work with? I prefer cooler climate regions as our menu is mostly seafood. Currently I find Wachau to be as exciting as anywhere.
What does it take to be a good sommelier according to you?
There are a lot of values that define a good sommelier in my opinion - honesty, modesty, good sense of humor, people skills, and passion. Only after all the "people" values I believe comes knowledge. It is extremely important, but without rest of them it doesn't mean much to me.
Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?
It's hard to tell, people always are interested what it is what you are really doing, what are your experiences. I don't think there are a lot of professions out there, where people are as intrigued as in sommelier profession. The downside is, sometimes people are imitated of it, when they hear you are a sommelier, many time first response you receive is "Oh, I don't know much about wine". So mostly I think it's misunderstood, many believe that blind tasting is something out of blue and made up, bunch of therms that no one understands etc.
But I strongly feel that it is moving the right direction and more approaching public with more understandable values.
When and how did you get the passion for wine?
It was 9 years ago. I started to work as a breakfast waiter in a hotel. A lot of things fell in the right places for me to make it happen, most importantly I met the right people who motivated me to do it. At the moment I started to learn about wine, I was still learning to enjoy, I was a 21 year old Latvian, and Beer was my beverage at that time, not wine. But the more I started to read about it, the more I fell in love with it.
Who is your big example in the wine/sommelier world? Without any doubt Raimonds Tomsons!
What is your approach for pairing wines (or other beverages) with dishes?
I could talk for hours about this. For me the right pairing can give you a completely new level of emotions that you would get from the dish or wine separately.
Most importantly I talk to the Chef about it a lot. I ask him what he wants to highlight in the dish? What role should wine play, should it be a secondary position where it boosts certain flavors or should it play as primary role as the food and fill a gap that nothing else can? Regarding other beverages, I'm not that deep in pairing them with food. I do it for fun sometimes, but I mostly stick to wine.
Which wine region would you recommend everybody to visit and why?
Mosel - It is probably one of the most picturesque regions with some of the best wines in the world.
For which wine would you make a big sacrifice to be able to taste?
I haven't been blessed with tasting a lot of true legendary wines, so there are a lot of them. But to be honest, I've much more enjoyed a wine that I had no expectations and it surprised me rather than a wine that has world fame and huge expectations, even if it lives up to it, it was expected, there is no element of surprise.
What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school or viticulture studies? I wouldn't say that there is one, but it is a feeling trough different stages that I would describe as such - The feeling of suddenly opening a new door and seeing a completely new world to explore and understand.
A culinary or wine experience everybody should have had besides have a meal at your restaurant, shop, winery, etc..?
When I was preparing for CMS Advanced I went to Pall Mall 67 in London to do my tasting training there. I could probably spend hours just reading their wine selection. For me it definitely is the place for wine lovers.