Best sommelier of Estonia in 2018 is Ketri Leis

12 Jun 2018

Ketri is just 28 years young and she is No. 1 sommelier in Estonia since 2016. This is her third title of best sommelier of Estonia.

Her primary education was in marketing, but in 2013 she started sommelier school and since then she has been in the sommelier business. Even though she is very young, she is already has 11 years experience in the hospitality industry. She has worked in almost every position in restaurant/wine bars which led to her become the sommelier and manager in Pazzo Wine bar in Tallinn.

We asked her a few questions about the competition she just won, the position of the sommelier in Estonia and particularly how females are regarded in the business in Estonia.

Q1. You won the Estonian contest in 2018, did you expect it and how do you feel about it?

Ketri: With the competitions I feel you can never expect any specific result. You can do all the work before: studying theory, training your practical skills, doing tastings and working as hard as you can. When the day arrives, you feel you know less than you did before, you feel you didn’t manage to read all the necessary materials and you get a bit anxious already in the morning. When you dress yourself up and check if you have all the necessary tools in your pocket, you calm down. Just before the finals the nervousness comes back. If you know you have made it to the finals, you need to do the best you can. For me, competing for the 4th time in the Estonian championships, it was the first final where I was satisfied with my performance. I kept myself together without falling apart during some wrong answers or difficult tasks. I am more than happy to have won the competition and move on to the World Championships, to meet new people and gain new knowledge and experiences.

Q2. How do You think the title of Best Sommelier of Estonia will change your life? 

Ketri: The competing scene in Estonia has undergone a little renewal – our top sommeliers for the past decade have stepped down. More and more young sommeliers have entered the competition which makes it interesting, and it’s great to see everybody’s growth during the past years. I have now been the winner for 3 years in a row; that has definitely changed my professional life. I have more knowledge, I am more confident in my decisions. I have lot of opportunities. Now we are starting a new project with one of the top sommeliers in Estonia, Kristjan Peäske, a wine bar called Pazzo. Based on boutique producers, terroir-driven wines, with tapas-style unpretentious but flavorful sharing plates. For me it is a great opportunity, and for the people it will be a bit “crazy”, surprising. We are all looking forward to the opening day in June:)

Q3. How is the profession of sommeliers in Estonia?  

Ketri: The sommelier scene in Estonia is definitely expanding. We have more and more restaurateurs who are interested in educating their staff and sommeliers. I would say we still have a long way to go, to have professional sommeliers working in every good restaurant.

Q4. You have a great knowledge about food and wine. What do you think you can do to promote your national beverages and gastronomy? 

Ketri: I have been working in restaurant Leib for a long time. It is casual dining based only on local ingredients. Therefore our beverage selection (excluding the wines of course :)) has been quite patriotic at all times. We have a boom of craft breweries, cider farms. We have upcoming distilleries. Even Crafters London Dry Gin of Liviko has won prizes in its category.  Ourselves, we have been making homemade liquors since the beginning.  So the scene is moving forward. For me, working in Tallinn, I always want to offer some local beverages.

In conclusion, we live in a nordic county. We have a great selection of seasonal products such as fruits and berries.  Be sure to taste some fruit wine, berry liqueur or hand-crafted beer when you come to Estonia!

Q5. What is women’s position in the wine/sommelier business in Estonia?

Ketri: To be honest I don’t see too much significance in being a male or female sommelier. It is more dependent on your knowledge and even more on your passion. During the last decade the gender inequalities have fortunately lessened, and we have more and more female in this “masculine” world. I am the first female champion of Estonia, that is a good recognition but definitely not the most significant. I am working and training together with fantastic girls: Els-Maria Uibo, Marika Tikas. In our team we have a lot of new sommeliers studying in the Estonian Sommelier School, who are all girls:  Helen Aasmann (Best Beer Sommelier of Estonia 2017), Eliise-Hanna Hermann, Sirli Lees, Katerina Jõgis, Merylin Tihomirova. Fingers crossed for all the new talents! ☺

Being a trained sommelier has definitely broadened my perspective. Great acquaintances around the world, travelling, communicating and learning. Everything comes hand-in-hand. I couldn’t be happier in my profession. I am surrounded by great people, amazing wine and delicious food. I have time to relax and travel. I learn something new every day. This is what you get when you find your way!