Raimonds Tomsons wins the ASI Best Sommelier of the World 2023

Raimond Tomsons of Latvia/Photo courtesy of ASI
Krister Bengtsson
Published 12-February-2023

Raimonds Tomsons from Latvia won the ASI Best Sommelier of the World 2023, in front of more than 4,000 spectators in Paris on Sunday, 12 February 2023.

"I can't believe it," Tomsons said, laughing on stage after his name was announced.

Nina Jensen from Denmark came second, and Reeze Choi from Hong Kong and China came third.

The La Defense arena/Photo by Krister Bengtsson

The tensions were palpable in the La Defense arena ahead of the event; it was the first time for many years the world championship was held in Paris and the French hope, Pascaline Lepeltier, was one of the top favourites. But she fell just short, receiving the fourth-highest score. When her position just outside the final selection was announced, she received one of the biggest ovations of the day.

In the corridor afterwards, Pascaline Lepeltier said she is done with competing and acknowledged that one mistake in the semis had been crucial - she had misunderstood the instructions for a cocktail task. At this level, one small mistake can be the difference.

Raimonds Tomsons, a Star Wine List ambassador and jury panel member, said at the press conference that his dream to compete for the championship had started in 2010 when he saw Gerard Basset win the Best Sommelier of the World. He added that he hopes that his win will be an inspiration for young sommeliers from other small countries to know that it is possible to win at the highest level.

The world championship had started earlier in the week with 67 candidates from around the world. Over the week they were put to challenges both practical and theoretical. The written tasks ranked from the classic theory to current affairs — including a question about which wine was served when Joe Biden received Emmanuel Macron at the White House.

Nina Jensen of Denmark/Photo courtesy of ASI

Of the 67 starters, only 17 sommeliers advanced to the semi-final on Friday. Several famous names did not make the cut, while some lesser-known names and countries advanced.

After the semi-final, the debrief in the corridors included some facepalms. One task was to suggest a vegan menu for a range of non-alcoholic beverages. More than one contestant lost the thread, and a fish dish and cheese were among the suggestions - not something they would suggest under normal pressure.

Experienced sommelier finalists

The finalists included two highly experienced competitors: Raimonds Tomsons from Latvia and Nina Jensen from Denmark, who were both finalists in the last ASI Best Sommelier of the World competition, held in Antwerp in 2019. Joining them was sommelier Reeze Choi from Hong Kong, who represented China. Reeze Choi, who is also the Hong Kong ambassador for Star Wine List, was clearly surprised to be in the final, as he said earlier in the weekend that he had not done well in the semi-final.

Reeze Choi from Hong Kong, representing China/Photo courtesy of ASI

On stage, a restaurant environment was set up with different tables and tasting stations. As is customary in sommelier competitions, curve balls and trick questions were introduced to test both knowledge and nerves, although this event did not include any obviously extreme situations.

Ann-Sophie Pic on stage

One of the many tasks included identifying four white wines in four minutes. And at one of the tables, star chef Ann-Sophie Pic asked the candidates which of the white wines to pair with dishes from her restaurant in Valence.

A list of wines and their market prices were presented and the candidates were asked to highlight errors and which prices were off the mark.

The three finalists/Photo courtesy of ASI

The ranking of the semi-finalists in the 2023 ASI Best Sommelier of the World competition

Positions four through 17:

4 Pascaline Lepeltier, France
5 Wataru Iwata, Japan
6 Valeria Gamper, Argentina
7 Jo Wessels, South Africa
8 Andrea Martinisi, New Zealand
9 Suvad Zlatic, Austria
10 Sotiris Neophytidis, Cyprus
11 Tom Ieven, Belgium
12 Réza Nahaboo, Switzerland
13 Kai-Wen Lu, Taiwan
14 Manuel Schembri, Iceland
15 Mark Guillaudeu, USA
16 Francesco Marzola, Norway
17 Chuan Ann Tan, Malaysia

All the candidates of the 2023 ASI Best Sommelier of the World

Bujar Tukuli, Albania
Andrea Mariana Donadio, Argentina
Valeria Gamper, Argentina
Paolo Saccone, Australia
Suvad Zlatic, Austria
Tom Ieven, Belgium
Luís Otávio Alvares Cruz, Brazil
Pier-Alexis Soulière , Canada
Marcelo Arriagada Chocair, Chile
Reeze Choi, China
Nicolas Reines, Colombia
Ivan Jug, Croatia
Sotiris Neofytidis, Cyprus
Jakub Pribyl, Czech Republic
Nina Højgaard Jensen, Denmark
Andres Jose Meschisi Murcia , Dominican Republic
José María Aguirre, Ecuador
Mikk Parre, Estonia
Antero Niemiaho, Finland
Pascaline Lepeltier, France
Jaba Dzimistarishvili, Georgia
Maximilian Wilm, Germany
Aris Sklavenitis, Greece
Juan Sebastian Giraldo, Hungary
Manuel Schembri, Iceland
Wicien Widjaja, Indonesia
Anke Carmen Hartmann, Ireland
Salvatore Castano, Italy
Mattia Antonio Cianca, Italy
Wataru Iwata, Japan
Ratmir Akhmetov, Kazakhstan
Raimonds Tomsons, Latvia
Martynas Pravilonis, Lithuania
Grégory Mio, Luxembourg
Chuan Ann Tan , Malaysia
Jeff Luciano Thomé, Mauritius
Miguel Angel Maldonado, Mexico
Bruno Scavo, Monaco
Kamel Essbai, Morocco
Adriaan Willem Eduard Visser, Netherlands
Andrea Martinisi, New Zealand
Francesco Marzola , Norway
Jazmin Alejandra Gavigan Aguilera, Paraguay
Gerardo Joseph Ruiz Acosta, Peru
Ian Odilio Bitalac Santos, Philippines
Kamil Wojtasiak, Poland
Nelson Guerreiro, Portugal
Adrian Jipa, Romania
Vuk Vuletić, Serbia
Joel/ Zhi Xian Lim , Singapore
Mason Yin Song Ng, Singapore
Rastislav Sutak, Slovakia
Valentin Bufolin, Slovenia
Jo Wessels, South Africa
Jungmin AN, South Korea
Diego Gonzalez Barbolla, Spain
Ellen Franzén , Sweden
Réza Nahaboo, Switzerland
Kai-Wen Lu, Taiwan
Nutawan Jumpanak, Thailand
Elena Shishkina Hayat, Turkey
Maryna Revkova, Ukraine
Eric Zwiebel, United Kingdom
Mark Guillaudeu, United States
Federico De Moura, Uruguay
Gustavo Rafael Garcia Escalona , Venezuela
Khanh Vi Le Hoang, Vietnam
Tawaanda Marume, Zimbabwe

Do like the Pros - search 2500+ wine lists


Did you know?
You can search for tens of thousands of wines and see where they are listed in restaurants and wine bars.
Search for wine lists on Star Wine List