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Latvia’s Raimonds Tomsons named world’s best sommelier

Raimonds Tomsons of Latvia was crowned the world’s best sommelier after fending off fierce competition at the Paris La Défense Arena on Sunday.

More than 4,000 wine professionals and enthusiasts gathered in the French capital to watch the world’s best sommeliers vie for glory.

Local favourite Pascaline Lepeltier, a Master Sommelier from Anjou, was eliminated at the semi-final stage, leaving just three experts to battle for the title.

Tomsons was up against Nina Jensen of Denmark and China’s Reeze Choi, all of whom were put through their paces in a series of tasks designed to test their knowledge, tasting skills, service acumen and ability to remain calm under pressure.

They had to identify wines that were tasted blind, pair wines with various dishes and spot errors in a price list, among other challenges.

Choi took the bronze medal, leading to a straight showdown between two sommeliers from northern European countries that are not exactly renowned for wine production.

Denmark’s Jensen impressed the judges with her all-round skill and confidence, but it was Tomsons that ultimately took the top prize.

William Wouters, president of the ASI Best Sommelier of the World contest, said: ‘I have no doubt he will be a fantastic representative of ASI, and an inspiration to our global sommelier community.’

Tomsons said that growing up in a country without a wine producing heritage had provided him with an advantage over some competitors.

‘We don’t have a history and our minds are freer,’ he said in his post-event interview. ‘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 previously finished third at the ASI Best Sommelier of the World competition when it was held in Belgium back in 2019.

He works as the wine director of Riga-based importer Barents Wine Collectors, while he also co-founded a wine education platform called WineTeach.

The ASI Best Sommelier of the World contest has been held in various countries, but it made a triumphant return to Paris this weekend.

‘It took more than 30 years for this contest to return to Paris and it was worth the wait,’ said Wouters. ‘From the first day candidates arrived, they were treated to the hospitality and amazing gastronomy of France. As for the contest itself, it honoured the commitment of our candidates by being both challenging and fair.’

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