The winner of the “Vana Tallinn Grand Prix 2019” competition for best sommelier hosted in Riga this weekend was Latvian representative Kaspars Reitups, with Ketri Leis of Estonia as the runner-up. Another Latvian representative – Ņikita Zaičenoks – took third place. This year the title of Best Young Sommelier went to Kristijonas Valančiūnas of Lithuania. The Vana Tallinn Grand Prix is the most prestigious competition of sommeliers in the Baltic States, with this year being the 14th edition of the competition.
“The assignments in this year’s competition, especially in the semi-final, were very difficult and the competition – very strong, so it is a great honour to have been named the winner. The final of the competition was very dynamic, but there were also disciplines which required demonstrating routine skills, such as communicating and interacting with guests, therefore the time on stage was very satisfactory and just flew by. I took preparing for the competition seriously and I’m very glad that the hard work paid off. My next major goal is to represent Latvia at the European Championships in Cyprus in 2020,” says Kaspars Reitups.
Baltic countries were represented in the competition with three participants from each country, in addition to the invited contestants from Denmark, Sweden and Poland. Each of the Baltic States also sent one candidate to the competition to compete for the title of the Best Young Sommelier in the Baltics. The field of competitors included sommeliers who have already won sommelier championships in their home countries. The competition took place over the course of two days, during which the sommeliers demonstrated their skills and knowledge in both theoretical and practical challenges. The Best Sommelier in the Baltics was chosen from four finalists, who, on the final day of the competition, competed in advising on various wine and food pairings and serving suggestions, demonstrating their wine decanting and serving skills. They also had to prove their theoretical knowledge in a Q&A round and demonstrate their skill in not only recognising and describing not only wines, but also various traditional alcoholic drinks from around the world.
“Every year the bar is set higher and higher both in terms of the organisation of the competition, as well as the level of the competitors. Without a doubt Baltic sommeliers can compete on equal ground with sommeliers from traditional wine nations, such as Spain, France and Italy, as well as at sommelier world championships,” explains Jānis Kaļķis, President of the Latvian Sommelier Association and member of the competition jury.
The “Vana Tallinn Grand Prix” competition has been organised since 2006 by AS “Liviko” in cooperation with the Sommelier Associations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The competition, which bears the name of the legendary Estonian liqueur Vana Tallinn, was originally created in order to promote responsible alcohol consumption, where professional sommeliers play an important role.
“Hosting a competition such as this is a great honour and responsibility, as it brings an important contribution to the development of the sommelier culture in the Baltic States. It is a pleasure to see both experienced professionals, as well as newcomers take part in the competition every year, proving that sommelier culture will continue to develop in the Baltics also in the future,” says Genādijs Kļepikovs, Member of the Board at “Liviko” Ltd.
This year “Vana Tallinn Grand Prix 2019” competition took place over the course of two days – 18 and 19 October. Last year the competition was held in Estonia, where the Latvian representative Ronalds Pētersons won the Grand Prix title in a close run.The 2nd and 3rd place went to Martynas Pravilonis from Lithuania and Ketri Leis from Estonia, respectively.