Martynas Pravilonis from Lithuania took a few minutes from his busy schedule to share a few successes and challenges in this anything-but-usual contest year. Pravilonis has over 10 years of experience in the industry and is the head sommelier at the Grand Hotel Kempinski in Lithunia’s capital Vilnius. He finished 4th at the Best Sommelier of the World contest in Antwerp in 2019, and in addition is a two-time winner of the Best Sommelier of the Baltics competition as well as a winner of Lithuania’s national contest.
What were some of the difficulties and successes of setting up a Sommelier Championship in 2020?
I cannot speak on behalf of the organizers, but I imagine that the greatest difficulty was that up until the very last minute we did not know if we would be allowed to do the competition. That added additional pressure both for organizers and competitors. Time for training was also limited – many restaurants have reduced staff numbers, so sommeliers must play a broader and more universal role at work and have less time.
Which strengths helped you take gold against the difficult competition?
Just a few days before the Lithuanian Sommelier Championship I had an opportunity to participate at the Estonian Sommelier competition. That was extremely helpful, and I was able to assess my preparation and be mentally ready. That was a great rehearsal and I felt quite confident on the competition day in Lithuania.
What do you hope to do now with the title?
It is the 4th time I have won the Championship but is not the last! I will continue with reading, tasting and preparation because in January I hope to sit the Court of Master Sommeliers Advanced Sommelier exam. Also the European Sommelier Competition is not so far away. Winning the Lithuanian championship again gave me strength and confidence that I am on a good path.
Would you be willing to share one thing you did to prepare for the contest that you believed helped you win?
Be consistent and study every day, there is no magic way. Also, do not forget to exercise – weeks before the competition I tried to do short but intense body weight training sessions every day to keep up my energy levels. I think it helped with the concentration on the stage as well.