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Home News > January 2020 > A few sips with Valentin Radosav

We caught up with head sommelier at Gymkhana and newly appointed Senior Judge for SWA, Valentin Radosav, to ask him how he got to where he is now and what it is that makes him want to return to judge at SWA every year.

How long have you been working in the on-trade and judging at SWA?

I have been working in the hospitality industry since 2008. I started by helping to develop/ maintain the wine list for a hotel in Wales. After that I worked for Purnell's in Birmingham, Burj al Arab in Dubai, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and now I’m at Gymkhana. I started judging for SWA three years ago in 2018, time flies by!

We’re so pleased to see that you’re returning to judge the 2020 competition, how was your experience last year? And what makes you want to return to judge each year?

I love tasting wines blind and having open-discussions with others. It's a great opportunity to discover new wines. The people who judge at SWA are great and this is the reason I love to return each year, there is such a nice team atmosphere.

What is the most challenging part of being a judge?

When I am the only one in my team who has given a low score to a wine. I am not a fan of bringing wines down, however that's the part of the game and the judging process.

What would be your advice to first time judges? And how do you think being a judge at SWA can help them?

For a first time judge it depends a lot their past expertise and their training levels. It's easy to calibrate your palate with someone who is Certified Sommelier or Diploma graduate, however it requires a different approach when someone is completely new to the industry.

I am flexible and I am looking to understand their view as individual, then make a balanced decision concerning the group’s overall perception of a particular flight.

What were your favourite flights or wines you tasted / other highlights from 2019?

Portugal and Hungary for their grape variety and value for money.

What are you looking forward to tasting in the 2020 competition?

One word: Surprises.

Finally, what’s your favourite wine/region/country?

My favourite wine region is Languedoc - Roussillon, followed by South of Africa and Chile. I am like a kid in a candy shop when I taste wines from these areas/countries and sometimes get carried away.