In Latvian “wine” circles, the name of Raimonds Thomsons has been mentioned very often and with great respect over the past six months. We, Noble Wine, would like to know how the life of our hero changed after such a successful start at the World Sommelier Championship in Argentina, where Raimonds took the honorable seventh place in a tough fight, as well as about the future plans of the most titled sommelier in Latvia.

– You have already been asked many times in various interviews about your “adventures” in Argentina. We don’t want to repeat ourselves and we’ll better ask you about our plans for the future. What has changed after the competition?

– Yes, I have already talked many times about how I prepared for the championship, how I planned, how I worked. He told me how my friends and colleagues supported me. I have nothing to add to the previous interviews, so let’s really talk better about my plans for the future, especially since I’m going to slightly expand the scope of my activities. The fact is that over 17 years of work in a restaurant under the guidance of my teacher and mentor Martins Ritins, as well as during intensive preparation for the championship in Argentina, I have accumulated a good baggage of theoretical knowledge and practical experience, which I actively use in my work. But I have been thinking for a long time about the possibility of transferring the accumulated knowledge further. Practice shows that for many sommeliers who have made a name for themselves, this becomes a logical step in continuing their career. There are many possibilities for implementing this idea, and you can learn more about this in the fall on the home page. The question remains open for me as to how big the demand for this kind of services is within our small Latvian market.

– Do you consider only Latvia as your potential “client”?

– No, why! To begin with, I plan to “conquer” the Baltic States. I also received an offer from Russia. At the end of November I intend to speak at a seminar in St. Petersburg. The name of the seminar is “How to Become a Successful Sommelier”. This will be my first experience of this kind outside Latvia. I seriously intend to move forward and am not going to stop. Probably, from the outside it seems that after the seventh place at the World Championship I could relax a little and deservedly rest on my laurels, but this is definitely not in my nature. It is very difficult to stop when you already know what the taste of victory is. Now I am actively preparing for the European Championship, which will be held next year, and where I also hope to perform well.

Раймонд Томсонс дегустирует вино в погребе винного магазина Noble Wine в Риге

Raymond Thomsons tasting at Noble Wine

– Do you already roughly know who your opponents will be at the European Championship?

– I think that in terms of competition, the European Championship will be much more difficult. Indeed, at the World Championship, the strongest participants were from Europe, with the exception of the Norwegian. In addition, there will be only 10-12 seats in the semi-finals, not 15 as in Argentina, and fewer participating countries – only 36. The event will take place in April-May 2017. In December I will start preparing very seriously, I am still in good shape after the World Cup, but a clear and well-thought-out plan of action is one of the guarantees of success.

– How do you plan to promote the Raimonds Tomsons brand?

– Of course, in no case will I quit my job in a restaurant, since this is where I can grow and develop as a sommelier. Most likely, I see myself in the role of a consultant. This can be work with private or corporate clients, holding various themed wine events. I would also like to try myself as a teacher in courses for professionals or beginners in wine lovers. The home page will provide information on how to contact me.

– As you know, some of the eminent sommeliers began to engage in winemaking. Have you ever thought about creating your own wine? Offer restaurants, say, a nifty Austrian Riesling with your name on the label?

– When my colleagues and I studied at the Wine Academy in Austria, one of us, Martins Pilens, was seriously carried away by the wine-making process itself. And all the others – Aigars Lukstinsh, Kaspars Reytups and me – were not particularly enthusiastic about oenology. We decided that this was definitely not for us. This is a huge work that requires deep special knowledge and skills. This is a completely different world! So I don’t see myself as a winemaker yet. But, as they say: “Never say never!”

– Your name is now associated with Latvia in the world. What emotions does this evoke in you?

– Frankly, it’s very nice. I really worked hard, I was supported by close people, which became additional motivation for me and helped in the championship. The result obtained evokes very great emotions when you understand what a tremendous amount of work has been done. But it was worth it! It was a great honor for me to represent my country and try to do everything in my power to make its name sounded on the world stage. After the competition, reporters from Asia came up and asked me about wine culture in Latvia, about our country. It is also gratifying that one of the most prestigious institutions in the wine industry – WSET – tweeted and thanked its students who participated in the championship. There were three of us: Joly du Pois (third place), Heidi Makenen and me. When I come back, I tell everyone that the wine industry is now on a very correct stage, thanks to which more and more people are starting to seriously study wine.

7-ой сомелье мира Раймонд Томсонс на Латвийском чемпионате сомелье в Риге

At the Latvian Sommelier Championship in Riga

– What do you think about the Latvian community of sommeliers?

– In the future, you can probably think about it. After all, we have experience and good specialists. It may even be necessary to create an educational institution for such purposes. I like the way in Austria, through education, they form in people a certain style of thinking and a desire to understand wines. I very often notice how, having tasted wine, many give it an immediate, sometimes very subjective assessment. We talk about the amount of tannins, about the presence or absence of balance, forgetting about the nature of the wine itself. If we know on what soil and in what climatic conditions the grapes grew, what purpose the winemaker pursued when creating the drink, then we more clearly understand what we have the right to expect from him. Thanks to this information, we can show much more respect for wine! Like it or not like it is another question. The main task for both an amateur and a professional is to clearly understand that, for example, the taste of Argentine Tannat should be exactly the same and no other, and if this wine does not become your favorite, then its value will not diminish in the least.

It will also be necessary to develop a certification system. This could be a school, courses, or a number of lectures. It is necessary to create a training structure. The Latvian Sommelier Association could cope with this task. Indeed, in order to become a real specialist, you need to study seriously and get a certificate that would indicate the level of knowledge. Now the association conducts a course of lectures, but this, in my opinion, is not enough. More serious preparation is needed. And then you can already continue your education abroad in order to try to get an international diploma. To pass an ASI Sommelier Certification holder, you need to pass a rather difficult exam. I will try it next year.

Read the rest of the interview on our website tomorrow