– I had to give up sports for a year, which I usually did 3-4 times a week. Due to the lack of physical activity, I lost a lot of weight, which was quite noticeable. But I realized that I couldn’t afford the luxury of 10 hours at the gym. I needed this time to prepare for the competition. The most difficult thing for me was to free up time for study in principle. Fortunately, work in the restaurant starts in the afternoon, so I could devote the entire first half of the day to my studies. But all the same, I had to force myself to get up early, which was not so easy, considering that I went to bed after work deep after midnight. I constantly felt guilty that I could not spend much time with my daughter during this period. She, of course, spun around me when I pored over books or worked at the computer, but this is not quite the same as full-fledged communication with a child. Of course … if the other half treats this with understanding … The most important thing is a clear planning of your time and the ability to give up some things in the name of a goal. You cannot embrace the immensity!

I spoke with the winner Arvid Rosengren. He had sponsors, money for training, and even a coach Sveren Polonius, who once brought up another world champion, Andreas Larson. He even had a special person who told him: “So, starting at nine in the morning you read only about Gevrey Chambertin for three hours in a row.” A week later, the same person asked him various questions, and only about Gevrey Chambertin: “Name all six Grand Сru; what are the permitted varieties; what is the minimum allowed alcohol level; when the appellation is founded ”, etc. Chaotic preparation is much less effective, so I repeat once again: there must be a lesson plan. And you need a base, made up of notes, on which you can rely at any time.

– During your work, study, numerous tastings, did you come across a wine that surprised you and remained in your memory for a long time? Did you not just like it for some technical characteristics as a professional, but caused strong emotions and a desire to purchase it for your personal collection?

– To some extent, the real discovery for me was the dry Tokay from the Furmint variety. It was one of the brightest impressions. Tokay wines for me have always been associated primarily with dessert wines. But the taste of aged furmint just amazed me!

Раймонд Томсонс на конкурсе сомелье в Риге

– You are now probably so theoretically savvy that you yourself can do scientific research and write about one of the wine countries or regions?

– I am very attracted to Asia. I have never been particularly interested in this issue before, but during my classes I often came across information about China and Japan. By the way, at the championship one of the questions was devoted to sake and rice varieties from which this drink is obtained. Asia is a very difficult and poorly explored part of the world: complex names, regions … China, in terms of the size of vineyards, is, along with Turkey, the fifth in the world. In Hong Kong, I have tasted many wines from Chinese wineries. I think that in the future, wines from Asia can become very popular.

And also the Balkans. This is the part of Europe that we are rediscovering for ourselves. It was very interesting for me to read about Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Croatia and try to remember their unusual names. There were quite a few questions at the championship, dedicated specifically to the countries of the Balkan Peninsula. Greece also seems extremely interesting to me. It is very complex: all these islands, Central Greece, the Peloponnese … I was fascinated by Greek wines after visiting the Prowine exhibition. The wines of this country were given a separate advertising stand with a huge map of wine regions, and everyone could taste wonderful authentic wines: red – Mavrodaphne, Assyrtiko, Retsinu, as well as Muscat. The samples I tasted then were interesting, unusual, drinkable and of very good quality. For the first time in my life I tried the fantastic Retsinu – Pine tears.

Asia, the Balkans, Greece – all this is extremely interesting. But I was not lucky with Portugal in the championship. Eight sub-regions of the Alentejo had to be named. I taught them conscientiously, but the information, unfortunately, somehow did not stick in my memory. There are only about 4000 local varieties. To remember all this, you can use associative thinking. Let’s say we are looking for a name of a famous football player similar in sound to the name of the variety. And Vinho Verde has nine sub-regions, one of which – Sousa – can be remembered by the name of the De Sousa champagne. I prepared for the theoretical exam on my own, but my colleagues helped me a lot with the practical part. Every day after work, my Kaspar, despite his fatigue, helped me train in Blind tasting. These workouts must be done every day, regardless of fatigue, bad mood, or any other plans. It is necessary to bring everything to automatism, so that during the exam you can concentrate only on the wine itself and not think about extraneous things. It is very difficult to cope with such a load without willpower and a great desire to win.

Раймонд Томсонс на на конкурсе сомелье

It is always very pleasant when guests are satisfied with your work, willingly share their impressions and sincerely enjoy drinks and dishes.

– What do you like most about being a sommelier?

– It is always very pleasant when guests are satisfied with your work, willingly share their impressions and sincerely enjoy drinks and dishes. Probably, any person who works in our field can agree with this, be it a cook, sommelier, waiter or bartender. A positive assessment of your work is always incredibly inspiring and is an excellent motivation for further development. Of course, it is not complete without criticism. In the semi-finals of the championship, I had to choose the wine that best suits a particular dish. My opinion did not coincide with the opinion of the jury, and it was, of course, not very pleasant.

– Have there been such cases when, while trying some wine, you mentally select a certain dish for it and then share your ideas with Martins Ritins?

– He often calls me when I need to try a new dish and express my opinion on this matter. Martins is very interested in wines and even became the owner of his own wine cabinet, which I periodically replenish at his request. He is very respectful of wine. We can taste any dish prepared in a restaurant along with wine; in this regard, our hands are completely free. This should be the norm in any fine dining restaurant – each new recipe has to be tried out with a wine platter. And in this the great merit belongs to Martins. I don’t know what is customary in other restaurants, but at any time I can ask the kitchen to taste this or that dish in order to think over its most optimal combination with wine. For example, in our restaurants, chokeberry is practically not used. While at the NOMA restaurant (Copenhagen, Denmark), we tasted the most delicate chokeberry cream with goat cheese. Awesome dessert: seemingly sweet, but seemingly not. Inspired by the creation of our colleagues from Copenhagen, we also prepared an aronia dish with excellent Bracchetto in Vincente and matched it with a delicious wine pair – sparkling pink or Spatlese, Auslese Riesling.

At Vincent, chefs and sommeliers are one team. Once I even took part in the creation of the sauce. To achieve a better taste harmony, I asked for a slightly sweeter veloute. The result of this work style is a very active synergy between food and wine. As we prepared for the Dom Pérignon evening, they opened the champagne and tasted it along with the dishes intended for the gala dinner. Of course, there are many classics out there that don’t require such an in-depth study. But I still like to be creative, and I always try to adhere to this principle.

Повар и сомелье ресторана Vincents Мартиньш Ритиньш и Раймонд Томсонс на дегустации в винном погреме магазина Noble Wine

Together with the chef of the Vincents restaurant Martins Ritins at the tasting in the Noble Wine cellar

Andreas Larson once said while sitting at a table in Vincent: “I think that people sometimes attach too much importance to the combination of wine and food … and this is especially true of the sommelier.” Of course, if you have a piece of excellent meat and a bottle of good wine, then it is almost impossible to spoil anything here. Chianti Riserva, Brunello, Bordeaux, Malbec or Riberа del Duero are perfect for steak with bordelaise sauce.

Coming to a restaurant, each of us wants first of all to relax and have a good time enjoying excellent cuisine and excellent wine, so I always try not to overwhelm our guests with long snobbish monologues of the sommelier. It’s too technical and boring. Better to tell some interesting story about wine, thereby creating a kind of emotional connection with the guests.

The wine you choose …

… to celebrate the victory. – Champagne.

… to watch a hockey match. – Beer or rosé from Provence.

… for a romantic date. – Champagne.

… to read a book. – Red Bordeaux.

… to celebrate Ligo. – German Riesling.

… January 1st in the morning. – Champagne.

… to celebrate a birthday with colleagues. – Sauvignon Blanc.

… to cheer yourself up. – Burgundy Chardonnay.

… for a dreary autumn evening. – Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

… being in France, in Paris. – Sancerre.

… being in Italy, in Rome. – Orvieto.

… being in Spain, in Barcelona. – Cava.