Thomas Sommer - The "Best Sommelier in Germany"

Unbelievable, but true - I won first place in the acclaimed "Sommelier Trophy 2011" competition...

It wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. I had to compete with thirty like-minded sommeliers in the preliminary rounds, where our expertise was challenged.
Three weeks later the six best were invited to compete in the semi-final competition, which was held early in the morning at the Relais&Chateau Hotel Burg Schwarzenstein.

We agonized over several difficult theory questions. Afterwards, each of us had ten very short minutes to describe three wines and recognize five spirits. Pressure! But then we went out to the terrace where we were able to relax, talk, and enjoy the amenities of the Rheingauer top hotel. 

Around five o’clock things got tense again. Over 160 guests had gathered and it became pretty hectic out in the lobby. A little later—when I discovered I would be competing in the finals along with Melanie Panitzke and Jürgen Fendt—my pulse began to race.

First, the champagne: Jeroboam, three liters, a heavy bottle, 160 audience members . . . anything could have gone wrong! But everything went right, I was relatively efficient and I poured glasses evenly. I hoped it would continue this way.

After a break that went on forever I began the next round. Melanie had gone before me. I had a good grip on the service evaluation and the discussions with Mr. Jauch and Mr. Lafer. Things were going almost too smoothly. I lost track of the time, chattered away, and gave them my recommendations. I was running out of time. Instead of three minutes I had just a few seconds to examine the wine list. My adrenaline rush helped me find what I was seraching for. Finished. Off I went, from the stage to the bar.

As could be expected, Jürgen had his final round under control and defended himself with class and style. We knew it would be a close race. When the results were announced, we were called to the stage in reverse order. When Jürgen was called before me, I couldn’t believe it. Amazing!

The competition was a huge success, not just for me, but for all the participants, as well as the Hotelvereinigung Relais&Chateau, and the Sommelier Union. The press response was awesome. This shows at last that the sommelier profession can be more than just a niche job.
My personal thanks go especially to my wife and friends for their support; to my esteemed colleagues at Schlosshotel Lerbach; to Relais&Chateau and the Sommelier Union; and to the sponsors who offered us such a fantastic platform.   

Check out the video from the semi-final round of the ‘‘Sommelier Trophy 2011” at Burg Schwarzenstein, on May 23rd, 2011.