A new generation of champions: how do the best sommeliers grow up?

A new generation of champions: how do the best sommeliers grow up?

Honey sommelier, oil sommelier, water sommelier – just a few examples of how sophisticated taste, knowledge and broad horizons are taking the traditional profession of sommelier into new areas. Beer Sommelier Tomas Josas and Wine Sommelier Edgaras Kazokaitis are not surprised, saying that as the country’s food and drink culture evolves, more and more people are finding the field interesting, and the principles of this classic profession are being taken to more and more new areas.

The rapid evolution of culinary culture and the growing audience of interested people inspire beverage experts to deepen and share their knowledge. Last year’s Sommelier Championships were like a masterclass and a better opportunity to get to know themselves – to see their strengths and weaknesses from the side. The knowledge and experience they have gained is immediately applied in their daily work – beer and wine sommeliers, together with other professionals, take care of more than 300 brands presented by the company MV GROUP Distribution LT.

Speakers at various events, trainings, exhibitions, seminars and conferences share the view that all knowledge is best tested and tried in practice. This is why they actively participate in sommelier championships where they can prove their knowledge.

The winning recipe – diverse experiences and working with leaders

T. Josas, the winner of the first ever Beer Sommelier Championship in Lithuania, says that as he improves, he can contribute more to the growth of the beer experts community in Lithuania. The champion notes that over the past few years, the beer experts community in Lithuania has grown considerably, and at the same time many myths about the drink and its production have been shattered.

“The more people are interested and aware of in any field, the fewer myths and misconceptions remain. There is a common understanding and broader criteria for evaluation – the primitive desire to measure everything by one yardstick disappears,” says T. Josas, Beer Ambassador of MV GROUP Distribution LT, who, together with his colleagues, is changing and expanding people’s perception of drinks.

It is not a surprise, that working in the ranks of a leading wholesaler brings a lot of beer news to Josas attention. As part of the company’s sales promotion team, the sommelier organises tastings, introduces new beers and organises training. Customers particularly appreciate Tom’s stories about beer and his lively communication style.

Josas also proved his highest level at the Lithuanian Beer Sommelier Championship, where he had to answer a number of theoretical questions, demonstrate his knowledge in blind tastings, accurately match beverages and food, and show his wide-ranging erudition in talking about beer.

The winner is a bit shy when he says that theoretical issues are not his forte, although while studying cultural history and anthropology at Vilnius University, T. Josas started researching beer traditions in Lithuania, interwar industrial brewing and sought to determine the role of beer in the country’s culture. Thus, by the time he finished his Master’s degree, Josas could already call himself a beer historian, and he was able to put his scientific knowledge into practice by working in pubs and companies where he could have regular conversations with his peers about beer.

Today, as part of a broad and diverse team of professionals, the Beer Ambassador has access to an even greater variety of beverages and can quickly learn about the latest news from the producers, technological innovations, and have direct contact with production technologists.

He notes that in the nearly 15 years of his beer discovery journey, both the brewing community in Lithuania has grown and improved considerably, as has the public’s perception. According to Josas, his position as a business leader and his determination to continuously introduce new and exceptional beers is also a strong incentive for the market to improve. The beer connoisseur is still amazed by the craftsmanship, ingenuity and pace of technological progress of brewers.

Driven by a desire to excel

Another member of the MV GROUP Distribution LT team of beverage experts is wine sommelier Edgaras Kazokaitis. He is convinced that it is very useful for sommeliers to take part in various trainings and championships, because each event brings new experience and knowledge.

As part of the MV GROUP Distribution LT ambassador team and working in the company’s sales promotion department, E. Kazokaitis works with wines, sparkling wines, whiskey, brandy and cognac. He can also be found at various events, tastings and training sessions for bar and restaurant staff.

E. Kazokaitis, who has been working as a professional wine sommelier for seven years, says that in order to prove and test his professional level, he is almost committed to taking part in the championship organised annually by the Lithuanian Sommelier Association. This year, he came second in the competition. Being one of the top three sommeliers in the country guaranteed Edgar a place in the best Baltic championship and the honour of representing Lithuania.

Having developed an interest in wine and the profession of sommelier during his studies in London, Kazokaitis says that he is now looking forward to the next year, so that he can get back on stage and perform even better.

Small countries can achieve big victories

Observing other sommeliers’ championships in other countries, where wine culture has a deeper tradition, E. Kazokaitis first of all notices the number of participants. The markets in Italy, Spain, France or the United Kingdom are simply much bigger, so it’s natural that they produce more masters. The impression he gets is that the competition is higher in the big countries and the tasks are more difficult than in the Baltic region.

“On the other hand, because we are not Italian or French, national pride does not weigh on our interests and outlook – we always try to look and be interested in a wider range of wines from many countries around the world. It is not for nothing that the title of the best wine sommelier at the World Championships in Paris this year was awarded to our Latvian neighbour Raimonds Tomsons,” says Kazokaitis and jokes that the biggest vineyards do not necessarily produce the best sommeliers.

This is also confirmed by the example of Deniss Smirnovs, HoReCa Sales Representative at MV GROUP Distribution LV. Smirnov’s performance at the International Bartenders Association Championship in Rome this year was awarded the highest honours – two gold medals. A total of 67 countries took part in the championship, but no one matched his skills in the classic cocktail category – not the bartenders from sunny Brazilian bars, nor from the luxury hotels and restaurants of Singapore and Switzerland. The championship jury praised both the qualities of Smirnovs’ drink and his memorable presentation. One gold medal went to the Latvian bartender for the best technical performance and another for the best cocktail with sparkling wine.