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And the best sommelier in Europe and Africa is…

A tense final in Austria has seen one sommelier rise above rivals to be named the best in Europe and Africa.

Raimonds Tomsons, of Riga in Latvia, has been named the best sommelier in Europe and Africa after he beat rivals at the grand final held by the International Sommelier Association in Vienna.

The 36-year-old, head sommelier of Vincents restaurant in Riga beat 36 other candidates from 33 European and three African countries in the three rounds of the three-day event, which was hosted by the Austrian Sommelier Union.

It is no mean feat. Competitors had to navigate quarter- and semi-final rounds in the same week, before finalists went on to perform a range of tasks live on stage in front of more than 400 guests at a gala dinner in the ballroom of Vienna’s Parkhotel Schonbrünn.

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The on-stage challenges, all with tight time limitations, included simulated restaurant tableside settings at which wine pairings had to be suggested for specific food courses and informed descriptions of Japanese Sake had to be made.

Other challenges included blind wine tasting descriptions and the spotting and correcting of extensive wine list mistakes.

Tomsons was one of just four candidates who made it to the final.

Piotr Pietras of Poland came second, Julia Scavo of Romania third and France’s David Biraud came fourth.

Tomsons sommelier background includes 17 years of service at Vincents restaurant in Riga and four years as president of the Latvian Sommelier Association.

Vincents is well-known on the fine dining scene and claims to have served the UK’s Prince Charles, musician Sir Elton John and renowned chef Heston Blumenthal since opening in 1994.

‘We are wine fanatics in Latvia, in Riga,’ said Tomsons.

‘But to get to this point now involved tasting, tasting and more tasting every day, polishing skills, vocabulary and style, constantly reading and studying. It was a lot of hard work. And thankfully I had the support of my family.’

Annemarie Foidl, president of the Austrian Sommelier Union, added, ‘It is very exciting to see such incredible talent coming from non-traditional wine countries. The wine market is getting bigger and bigger today, and so is the talent.’

The next ‘best sommelier in the world’ competition is not likely to take place until 2019. Sweden’s Arvid Rosengren currently holds the title, after winning in Mendoza, Argentina, last year.

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