What is a Water Sommelier?

September 24th, 2013

Galileo said, “Wine is sunlight, held together by water.” I say, “Fine water is like fine wine.”

glass of water

Image via jirihnidek (flickr)

What Is a Water Sommelier?

If you want to get super technical, the definition of a sommelier has historically been reserved for waiters or stewards of wine. Well, water is taking a stand against grape snobbery, and many fine restaurants are enlisting the service of a water sommelier. “What?” You might be asking. “That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard! Wine comes in several varieties; water is just water!” Ah, but truly it is not. Much like how grapes, land, and the vintner affect the flavor of wine, minerals, source, and the processing affects the taste of water. So, yes, water deserves a sommelier – and a little respect – too!

It’s All a Matter of Taste

A water sommelier does seem silly if you look at it only in terms of tap water versus filtered or bottled water. There is a distinctive taste difference recognizable to any palette. This is primarily because when drawing water from the tap, you taste all of the chemicals municipalities use to purify your drinking water – yuck! Filtering tap water, or admittedly buying bottled water, generally removes the chlorine taste that should only be reserved for swimming pools! Now, let’s build on this simple concept to understand why water deserves a sommelier.

Experts of drinking water understand what makes water taste like water, and why water tastes differently throughout the world. You see, water is more than just the chemical mixture of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom that make up H2O. Water is also filled with something us water geeks call TDS, or total dissolved solids . These solids, which are made up of minerals, salt, and metals, give water its taste. Think mineral water for just a second.

Minerals Make a Difference

Whether you’re a mineral water junkie or you’ve merely had the occasional bubbly H2O because you didn’t feel like a sugary soda, you’ve probably noticed there is a distinct taste difference between the carbonated stuff and a regular ol’ glass of water. In fact, those who frequent the bottled water probably notice a taste difference between brands. This is because the minerals that give mineral water its name differ between the worldwide water sources. What also varies are the amount of good total dissolved solids added and bad total dissolved solids removed from the water before it is bottled for consumption.

The same holds true for tap water. Where you live and how your municipality treats its water makes a difference in the TDS swimming in your H2O, and this is why your tap water doesn’t taste like the tap water at Grandma’s house a few counties or states away. Yep! Total dissolved solid levels make all the difference in the quality and taste of any water from any water source, and it’s the water steward’s job to know that difference, much like the wine sommelier recommending the perfect bottle of vino to match your elegant dinner.

Sommeliers Know All

So, how do they do it? The same way wine sommeliers do. They learn all there is to know about water , water sources, and the effects of all total dissolved solids. A water sommelier is going to offer you the same information a wine sommelier would. He or she should be able to tell you exactly where and how the water is sourced, identify the name and amounts of all total dissolved solids, and how the water was processed before bottling. All of these variables affect water’s taste, and the sommelier should offer you a variety of mineral waters to sample so that you can find the one most pleasant to your palette.

Still sound crazy? Okay, maybe a little. But the next time you unintentionally swallow swimming pool or ocean water, or draw some nasty tasting stuff from the tap, keep in mind that the water sommelier can lead you to the perfect blend of H2O and minerals resulting in the perfect glass of water . For those of you who appreciate that perfect glass wine, the concept isn’t so far-fetched!


Written By: Lynn Taylor

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