The Association Luxembourgeoise des Sommeliers has selected a newcomer, Niels Toase, as its new president of the association. He replaces outgoing president Gérard Guyon on the executive committee. Toase will now lead the association and its roughly 80 members in its work towards service excellence and, of course, the selection of Luxembourg’s Best Sommelier. The new president expressed gratitude for his election and an interest in nurturing more women, young people and diverse nationalities in the field.
An interview with Niels Toase of Luxembourg
Niels Toase initially trained in Hotel Management in Germany. His studies as a sommelier came later, in Dinard, France under Christian Stévanin, followed by the WSET program. He first entered sommelier competitions back in 2008 while still a student, but took a break after completing his studies. In 2014 he resumed competing and won the Luxembourg championship.
Q1. What made you decide to apply for the position as association president?
I was asked to put myself up for the vote. At first I was quite reluctant, but I felt strongly that we needed a change. So I applied for the position and the vote went in my favour.
Q2. What are your plans for the future for the association?
What we are really trying to do is to become more dynamic. We are pushing to get new members and invest in our current members with different education programs and wine trips. We are also hoping to send more of our sommeliers for the ASI diploma.
Our goal is to grow in numbers and provide better educational options for our members.
Q3. What is your vision for the future for the sommelier profession in your country?
We need highly skilled people in our trade that are capable of multitasking with a great curiosity for the world of wines. Our country provides fantastic opportunities and superb wines to work with. The Luxembourg Mosel is undergoing a change of generations in its own right and we see many new winemakers coming up with fresh ideas and a hunger to constantly improve our local wines. We need to become the best ambassadors that we can be for them.
Q4. What is the biggest challenge nowadays that sommeliers face in Luxembourg?
We clearly have a problem recruiting new and younger sommeliers in Luxembourg, even though I know that this is a global challenge. This is linked to many causes, like the working hours in the restaurant and hotel trade. We see that many restaurants are no longer hiring sommelier positions as a part of cost reduction on floor staff. They often justify this with the fact that guests are drinking less in restaurants and bars nowadays. Which is true and I’m pretty sure that we have not seen the end of the trend yet.
But we need to remember why people go to restaurants in the first place. It’s not only to take in a certain well-defined number of calories, it’s also about having a good time, being entertained, sharing a food and wine experience with other people. People drink less — that’s a fact — but they still want to enjoy great wines. With that said, guests nowadays are much more aware of the quality and price of wines than even only a few years back. A sommelier who is humble and knowledgeable in his or her craft will always bring something special to the dining room and be profitable. This is something that I feel is important to remind our trade colleagues in the restaurant and hotel sector.