Elizabetes iela 19, Rīga, LV-1010
If you’ve ever thought the road to being named 2017’s Best Sommelier in Europe and Africa is paved with dedication, will, and passion — Raimonds Tomsons is the proof you’ve waited on.
Raimonds’ journey began where he currently sits; Restaurant Vincents , in one of the most captivating parts of Riga, Latvia. After high school, Raimind went to study tourism while simultaneously getting his hands into the industry as a trainee. Here he met the great chef Martins Ritins, who ran the restaurant for 23 years. Under Martins’ tutelage, Raimonds was able to satisfy his ever-expanding thirst for knowledge about the industry .
It was here Raimonds took an interest to world of the sommelier. After seventeen years spent learning every aspect of the restaurant as a waiter, lead, and head sommelier, Raimonds is now the director of Vincents; having the honor of leading the restaurant and its team to continued success.
Restaurant Vincents currently boasts over 350 wines on their list, heavily concentrated on European wines, with a focus on Austrian & German wines, as well as Champagne. They even offer wines by the glass — and not just table wine. Fine wines are served using the Coravin system, which protects and preserves the wine pour after pour. This gives every curious guest the opportunity to taste different wines and pairings throughout the evening.
We took a moment with the world-class sommelier and restaurateur to get his insight into Vincents and the industry itself.
There must be some secret here. Success like this and a wine menu this extensive does not come by chance. Crafting a wine menu is itself a work of art. According to Raimonds, it is three key things: “A great sommelier, a great chef, and their combined skills to make a perfect match!”
Equally important to Raimonds is the vision of the sommelier themselves. Completely understanding the philosophy and concept of a restaurant and blending it with your own style will be reflected through the wine list. It’s as if you can feel their hand reach out and guide yours with every word.
The pairings created at Restaurant Vincents are evidence of this philosophy. Take their perfected langoustines and snails from the Faroe islands. When asked how to match a wine with this mix of flavors, Raimonds was at the ready. “Pure,dry and mineral character white wines like Albarino or salty Soave Classico or Fiano di Avelino or Wachau or Kamptal Riesling or Gruner Veltliner…” The list goes on and on.
Guests especially enjoy the selection of dry aged steak at Restaurant Vincents. Enjoying a rich red alongside the Waguy steak from Miasaki is a cut above the rest.
Restaurant Vincents is not without its polarization. If there is one dish that is sure to divide guests, it is the veal sweetbread with madeira and mushroom sauce. Patrons either worship the dish or pass on it altogether, there is no in between. Oddly enough, this is one of chef Aleksandrs Nasikailovs favorite dishes. We will trust his taste buds on this one.
To Raimonds and the crew at Vincents, the customer makes the experience. Raimonds values above all an educated yet open-minded customer who welcomes professional guidance. No matter how much of a wine enthusiast we are, we can learn a thing or two from one of the top sommeliers in the world.
A bit of trust with your palate is heavily rewarded here. As Raimond puts it “The best reward is when they leave your restaurant with great emotions and experience.” Naturally, everyone at Rastaurant Vincents has this goal in mind.
When asked about his memories with wine, a brief reverie takes over. Far from the flavor explosions savored by so many wine enthusiasts, Raimonds most unforgettable wine combination was his very first oyster and a crisp white Bordeaux; eaten on a boat off the coast of Arcachon. And his latest memorable wine experience? Enjoying a white Hermitage, sitting on a hill in Hermitage overlooking the Rhone river.
And it is often simple pleasures like this which also make up a developed palate; not just the fireworks of new flavor combinations.
We asked Raimonds to chime in on the “Red wine vs White wine” debate; his answer puts it more plainly that we have ever heard.
“I think it is a myth [that red wine is better than white wine], and in our market it is really dependent on the season and time of year! Red wines are always more popular during the cold months; while sparkling, white, and rose wines are especially popular during summer! And there will always be red wine lover and white wine lovers, independent of the time of the year.”
To each his own, n’est pas?
While the focus in the industry is so often on the “big” players, Raimonds recommends a trip to the understated world of wine. Wines from Portugal, Greece, Spain, Germany, Austria, and many Eastern European countries are remarkable, and widely unknown by the global market. Luckily, Restaurant Vincents does something to change that, featuring many wines from these regions.
For the beginner, Raimonds offers the best place to start — the beginning!
“Start with classic grapes, and if possible together with an experienced taster! Read some basics in theory first — learn what the flavors of each grape variety are and how they are reflected in a glass of wine. Tasting with some theoretical background helps better to understand wine!”
So before we hit the table…hit the books. Well…maybe hit the books with a glass in your hand.
And in one word, Raimonds, What is wine, to you?
We couldn’t have said it better. In your hands, Raimonds, the future is as bright as ever for restaurant Vincents.
Find Raimonds at Vincents
The restaurant maintains close contacts with many small Latvian organic and Slow Food farmers, producers and processors. Products for the needs of the restaurant are purchased directly, without brokerage. The freshest and best quality products mean that the menu changes according to seasons in nature.