Have you noticed how wine has become so last year? These days, discerning palates are praising the pure, unsullied taste of water. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that water is simply water. Far from it. The world of bottled water is surrounded by a culture equally as involved as that of wine, with specialist water sommeliers recommending waters from around the world based on their taste, mineral content, softness and acidity. Waters can be sweet or salty, smooth or complex, fruity or even metallic.
The Fine Water Society now holds an annual Summit as well as Water Tasting Competitions, explaining that terroir affects fine waters in just the same way as it does fine wines. A water’s mineral composition results in a unique flavour, affecting how it pairs with foods and other drinks – so the right ice cube in your glass can really make a cocktail sing.
Waters range from a super-low mineral content, such as award-winning Svalbardi (collected from icebergs in the Arctic Ocean), to ROI (one of the world’s most magnesium-rich, naturally carbonated mineral waters from an ancient spring in Slovenia). Those in the know now order their water by name, and the finest restaurants offer a full menu of waters to match with different dishes and styles of cuisine. A low-sodium water pairs perfectly with caviar. Choose something with a high-bicarbonate level to drink with cheese, or a softer, sweeter water low in calcium and magnesium to pair with desserts or chocolate. Carbonation also plays a part, big bubbles matching well with hearty, robust flavours, whereas fine bubbles work well with delicate fish and sushi.
Winning Gold in 2016 and Silver last week at the Water Tasting Competition in Guangzhou, Svalbardi water is described as soft, acidic, with a very low mineral content, and is recognised by the Fine Water Society as one of the world’s best tasting, super-low mineral waters. Harvested, melted and bottled in the Svalbard Archipelago, it supports the local economy, while the company also donates a percentage from the sale of each bottle to support polar and climate research.
The next time you are entertaining, consider serving only water, with no wine to distract from the flavours of the food. Serve different waters as the meal progresses as a sign of true connoisseurship, using their subtle differences to highlight the flavours and mouthfeel of each dish. Just as there is no such thing as the best wine, there is not one best water. Get together with a group of friends, a selection of sushi, cheese and chocolate, and carry out your own taste test to find your favourites.