You’ve heard of a wine sommelier, whose job it is to know everything about wine, from tasting to pairing to serving. You might even know the equivalent for beer is a Master Cicerone. But chances are, you’re unaware that the same distinction exists for spring and mineral water — and that there’s only one water sommelier in the world.
Yep, Martin Riese of Germany (currently living in Los Angeles) has made a splash in the water world. As a Water Tasting Educator and Water Sommelier at Patina Restaurant Group in Los Angeles, Riese leads his signature water program at Ray’s & Stark Bar in LA (with 20 different waters, all painstakingly detailed in a 45-page menu).
So why water? Riese’s breakthrough came in 2005 while working at a Berlin restaurant. A patron complained about the water taste and asked for an alternative, noting that the restaurant had over a thousand wine labels but just one brand of water. Riese realized that more options were needed for drinking water, and he began crafting his own water menu.
And if you think all water tastes the same, Riese will gently explain otherwise. Like wine, you can taste the region your water hails from, and the mineral levels that create flavor are measured by Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). Spring and mineral water come from the same source, rainwater, which naturally falls through earth’s layers and becomes filtered while picking up various minerals.
Outside of bottled water, higher quality water means a higher quality base for other drinks. We’ve mentioned before the importance of water quality when making coffee, and as a German, Riese is quick to point out that beer is 90% water, so using water from a high quality spring is crucial to production.
Because of these added minerals, it’s possible to pair water with food similar to how you’d pair wine, beer, or a cocktail with your evening meal. By bringing attention to different tastes and textures of water, Riese hopes to show people how to treat water like the valuable commodity it is.
And in a surprising twist, Riese doesn’t shy away from tap water at all. On the contrary, he believes that you can have great tasting tap water depending on the source and how the municipality treats the water.
After hearing about the world-famous water sommelier, we at Contigo were curious ourselves to see if we could taste the difference between various “luxury” spring and mineral waters. Our hydration experts led a blind taste test of five different premium bottled waters, with everything from glacier water from Iceland to Hawaiian volcanic water. We practiced our best swirl-and-sip techniques while ranking the waters by taste.
The verdict? While we could detect differences in taste among the five options, none of them really stood out as that much better than the normal filtered tap water we drink from our reusable water bottles. And knowing the prices of the bottled water we were tasting went all the way up to $72 for a 24-pack (?!?!)… yeah, we’ll stick with our usual tap water, thanks.
As an environmentally conscious company, we’re more inclined to choose tap water over bottled water, no matter how tasty the bottled water may be (after all, the production of single-use bottled water has a disastrous impact on the environment). But while we’re sipping on our tap water, we’ll raise our glass water bottles to Martin Riese and the work he’s doing to change the way our planet views water.