Image may contain: 3 people, people smilingJulie Dupouy Irish Guild of Sommeliers competitor in ViennaRaimonds Tomsons from Riga, Latvia, the winner serving the judges including Mary O' Callaghan, Pres. Irish Guild of Sommeliers

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The Best Sommelier of Europe and Africa Contest finals took place at the Park Hotel Schónbrunn , Vienna, Austria on the 11th May, 2017. Julie Dupouy was the Irish Guild of Sommeliers competitor at this contest.

Julie is the current Best Sommelier in Ireland since winning the Irish Guild of Sommeliers national competition.

Julie won 3rd place and a bronze medal at the World Sommelier Contest in Mendoza, Argentina in April, 2016. She is also a New Zealand Winegrowers 2017 Sommit Scholarship recipient.

Julie is the Sommelier at the Greenhouse Restaurant, Dawson Street, Dublin and Portfolio Brand Ambassador for Champagne Brands with Edward Dillion and Co. Ltd.,

Due to the tight results at the contest in Vienna, four of the original 37 top Sommeliers from 34 European countries and 3 from the African countries were selected for the chance to win and Julie had the distinction of being placed seventh overall.

David Biraud , France, Raimonds Tomsons ,Latvia, Piotr Pietras ,Poland and Julia Scavo, Romania took their turns on the stage of the Parkhotel Schönbrunn to perform the challenging tasks of the jury before a live international audience of nearly 500 guests.

The eventual winner of the contest was Raimond Tomsons from Riga, Latvia.

Mary O’ Callaghan President, Irish Guild of Sommeliers was on the judging panels for the contest.

In the world of Sommellerie, the focus is on precision – but also on personality. For the final, three restaurant tables were set up on the stage, and the first challenge was to “serve these guests with a Sake as an aperitif and then justify the selection. You have two minutes and 30 seconds to do this.” On the side table, various Sake specialties were provided, with one of them bearing high alcohol content. This purposely built-in trap was overlooked by a candidate in the heat of the battle. Another challenge was to recommend appropriate wine accompaniments for an anniversary celebration menu. For each course, the Sommelier was required to recommend a wine from a different country, to describe each wine thoroughly and to explain why it would fit to the matching dish. Two of the candidates could not make the short time limit allowed for this round – which was complicated further by a guest who asked – as a small irritant – for a different wine than the recommended one.

Blind Tasting – Tough Testing

“You have four minutes to open this magnum bottle and pour its contents evenly into 18 glasses. You cannot adjust the amount in any glass once the wine is poured.” Here the candidates cleverly checked the actual number of glasses – more than 18 were actually provided – as well as their cleanliness. The uniform distribution of the wine in each glass was successfully achieved by the candidates. Another exercise proved quite tricky, as the Sommeliers were faced with three pairs of dark-coloured glasses. Of the fluids contained in each glass, two were identical, but only as a product. These drinks were to be identified and described as pairs according to the basic product or type of production, and then to justify their matching characteristics.

History and Background of the Competitions

The Sommelier World Championship was founded in 1969 by The Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (A.S.I.). It has conducted the Sommelier European Championship since 1988. The aim of the competitions is to promote the exchange of specialised professionals in the restaurant and hotel industry and to motivate them to perfect their skills. Likewise, a healthy competition between the participants is to be encouraged and promoted. All candidates taking part in a competition are from either an A.S.I. member country or a country applying for membership. More than 1,000 candidates have participated in these competitions over the years. A prerequisite for competing is active work in a restaurant, a wine bar, a wine shop or in the wine tourist sector.

Each candidate was accompanied by an official delegation composed of an accredited journalist and by the President of the Sommelier association of that country. Mary O’ Callaghan, President and Andrew O’ Gorman, Journalist & Secretary Irish Guild of Sommeliers represented the Irish Guild of Sommeliers.

Annemarie Foidl, President of the Austrian Sommelier Union, was delighted with the success of the competition – which was conducted for the first time with the European and African Sommelier organisations cooperating together.

Programme highlights during week of the competition – Austria


Monday, 8th May

Opening ceremony: solemn procession of the delegations with their flag presented and accompanied by an Austrian winemaker. Opening dinner hosted by the Austrian Wine Marketing Board.

Tuesday, May 9th

Start of the contest in the Parkhotel Schönbrunn for the candidates and jury only

WINE TOUR: “A DAY ON THE RIVER”: From Vienna to Spitz: boat trip from Melk to Krems with wine-tasting and campus with the winemakers on board. Lunch at Stift Göttweig. Campus in Kamptal and Kremstal: panel tastings with the winemakers.

Wednesday, May 10th

WINE TOUR: “A DAY AT THE CASTLE”. Tour to Schloss Esterhazy. Start of the public semi-finals of the “Europe’s Best Sommelier” contest. Tasting and campus with the winemakers.

Thursday, May 11th

“A DAY IN THE CITY”.Private tour of Schloss Schönbrunn.Trip to the vineyards of Vienna, tasting and campus with the winemakers. Return to the hotel via the places of interest of the city of Vienna. Start of the finale in the Parkhotel Royal. Dinner cooked by four Jeunes Restaurateurs in Parkhotel Schönbrunn.

Friday, May 12th

Campus with the winemakers at St. Martins Theme, meet and greet all winemakers


Raimonds Tomsons works as a head sommelier at Vincents restaurant in the Latvian capital, Riga. Since 2007, he has participated regularly in national and international competitions Tomsons said: “I am overwhelmed! Thank you to everyone. Thanks to the A.S.I., who gives us sommeliers the opportunity to present our skills. And thanks to the Austrian Sommelier Union for the fantastic organisation. And especially, I would like to thank all who have supported me, especially my partner, Martina.” And finally – “Thank you Austria!”

Andrew O’ Gorman, Secretary, Irish Guild of Sommeliers – May 2017.

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