On Sunday, Latvia’s Raimonds Tomsons was named winner of the ASI (Association de la Sommellerie Internationale) Best Sommelier of the World contest held at La Defense Arena, near Paris.
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The contest, first held in 1969, pits sommeliers from across the world against one another in a series of challenges designed to put their tasting and serving abilities to the test, as well as their knowledge of pricing.
This edition, the first held in France since 1989, took place over four days and whittled 68 candidates to three finalists: Tomsons, Denmark’s Nina Jensen (second), and Reeze Choi of China (who came third). As a reflection of changing lifestyle habits, among the challenges this year was a task involving pairing non-alcoholic drinks with vegan dishes.
Though Latvia is not known for its viticulture, Tomsons, who came third in the last edition of the competition in 2019, cited this as as an asset in a pre-final interview: “We don’t have a history and our minds are freer…In Latin America or classic countries like Spain and Portugal, they find it harder to open up to the wines of the world, because they are very proud of their own.”
Tomsons is wine director of Barents, a Riga-based importer, and also co-founded WineTeach, an online wine education platform. Upon being announced as winner he said: “I can’t believe it.” He will now join the hall of fame of ASI Champions.
This article was originally published by the drinks business and has been shared with permission.