Fancy Bottled Water Recommendations from a Water Sommelier
Enjoying bottled water is not as new a trend as many believe. In the Roman Empire, earthen jars filled with naturally carbonated water from Northern Germany (today's Apollinaris) were transported to Rome at great expense, and the 11 aqueducts streaming into the city were rated according to the taste and quality of the water.Like wine, water has terroir and it is a natural product that originates from a particular place with unique properties. That is of course if you drink premium bottled water. About 40 percent of the bottled water sold in the United States is purified tap water and available from brands like Aquafina, Dasani, and many others. If it says municipal source on the label, it's not premium water, and is probably highly processed.There is nothing wrong with tap water, and in most places it's safe to drink (and in some instances it actually doesn't taste too bad). But tap water is for hydration; premium bottled water deserves a place at the table in an epicurean context.At first glance, waters may not seem to have the individual characteristics that distinguish wines, but distinct differences become apparent when the attention is focused on water. Here are five upscale bottled worth sampling, and some notes on tasting:1. Iskilde, ?DenmarkSource: SpringA discreet, elegant, and functional presentation in glass for any epicurean setting. Iskilde succeeds in transporting the sensation of drinking the water at the spring to the table.2. Berg, ?CanadaSource: IcebergIceberg water is a very soft water with a super low mineral content and a great story to tell. Perfect for clear ice cubes with a lot of history or enjoyed in a unique bottle.3. Peteroa 9500, ?ChiliSource: ArtesianAn astonishing low mineral content for a 9,500 year vintage and an elegant slightly understated presentation in glass characterizes Peteroa 9500.4. Cape Grim, ?AustraliaSource: RainRainwater captured on the pristine North West coast of Tasmania-soft and neutral rain water in a glass presentation, perfect for the most subtle dishes.5. Walnut Grove, ?United StatesSource: SpringA neutral Orientation and a medium Minerality make Walnut Grove the perfect choice for almost any kind of food, especially in an epicurean setting with its simple and elegant presentation in glass.Tasting notesBalance: The mouthfeel generated by the bubbles (carbonation) should be matched with the mouthfeel of the dish. Loud, big, bold bubbles overpower subtle dishes (sushi/sashimi), while still water might be too great a contrast with crispy food.Minerality: The dominant food items of the dish should be matched with the minerality (mineral content or Total Dissolved Solids, more commonly written as TDS) of the water. Low minerality waters have a light, sometimes crisp perception, while higher minerality levels give the water some weight and substance. Think of low minerality waters as white wines and high minerality waters as red wine.Temperature: Serving waters at a temperature of about 55 degrees Fahrenheit, will nicely show their characteristics. A slight increase in temperature will have a calming effect on waters with larger, louder bubbles.Stemware: A water glass needs a stem and straight sides to distinguish itself from wine glasses, though they should be of the same quality as the wine glasses used. If you don't have a water glass available, use a white wine glass, but watch for the waiter-at some point, he will pour wine into your water glass.Ice: At home, just fill your ice cube tray with the bottled water you plan to drink. Choose these cubes if you must have ice in your water, or you can use them for making cocktails.Guest blogger Michael Mascha is a water sommelier and the author of Fine Waters: A Connoisseur's Guide to the World's Most Distinctive Bottled Waters. For an interview with Mascha, see "In Defense of Fancy Bottled Water" from the Water issue.