Gone are the days when choosing water was a simple matter of: "still or sparkling?"

There are now so many, different sources and bottled brands that you might need the services of a "water sommelier." Yes, that's a thing now.

Hotels and restaurants have begun hiring water tasters to help patrons choose the perfect pairing for their food.

Just as you might tap into the knowledge of a restaurant's wine sommelier to find something new and refreshing on the pallet, the professional "water taster" is a role that more restaurants are sourcing.

Wine to water: Reformed wine sommelier Jessica Altieri. Photo / Supplied, Instagram.com
Wine to water: Reformed wine sommelier Jessica Altieri. Photo / Supplied, Instagram.com

Some hotels are even arranging set "water tastings."

Like a 0% version of a wine tasting, this could be the perfect activity for anyone giving up alcohol for a 'Dry July.'

But what's really behind this new fad? Is it just some elitist marketing ploy? How complicated can water be? Surely all water follows the same recipe? (Two parts H, to one part O.)

Apparently there is a lot one can learn about the "bonne dégustation" of water.

Doemens Academy in Germany is a leading training centre for budding water tasters.

Save the date! Water Sommelier Course 2020: April 20th through April 30th More Information (e.g. schedule, enrollment): https://www.doemens.org/en/savour-academy/watersommelier.html

Posted by Doemens on Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Over 80 units and 4 written exams, Doemens' Graefelfing institute near Munich teaches students "to choose the matching water to ordered dishes as well as wine or coffee" and promotes "the positive effect individual waters can have on the human health".

The centre offers a similar programme for "Beer Sommeliers", which sounds like a lot more fun.

"The first course started in 2011," says Dr. Schropp, who founded the water course.


"I had the idea to start a program to educate people about the great variety of water, especially of natural mineral water and spring water," he said in an interview with Travel and Leisure magazine.

The cost of enrolment is around US$2500 ($3730) per student.

At the end of which you will – hopefully – be able to taste the difference between Vichy Catalan, a Spanish mineral water with almost neutral pH balance, and Svalbarði, a boutique Norwegian mineral water harvested from icebergs.

Like wine, each bottle of water has a "terroir" - a story and an origin that informs and compliments the kinds of food one can expect to be served with it.

Refreshing, low-mineral waters compliment the subtle flavours of seafood and steamed crayfish. Meanwhile, one expects the strong tastes of rustic European cooking might be paired with any old water, from the local duck pond.

In spite of the 'sommelier sceptics', Doemens' graduates have gone on to make waves in the Food and Beverage sector.

One such graduate is Jessica Altieri, who is the water sommelier for Florie's restaurant at the Palm Beach resort in Florida.

Altieri turned wine to water enthusiast, in an almost apostolic conversion. She began her career as a wine taster, podcaster and author writing about all things grapes, until she attended the course at Doemens.

She gushes evangelical about her new cause, to convert the non-believers to the benefits of choosing the right water:

"My goal is to make consumers feel comfortable and educate them so they understand the health benefits of water, and to learn that water is more than just water," Altieri told Travel and Leisure. "You don't need to have a fancy palate to taste the difference. Education is the key to helping consumers understand water is more than just something you sip when you're thirsty."

With the Doemens institute less than ten years old, it is hard to tell if the water taster is here to stay or if it is just another splash in the pan in the long history of food and drink fads.

The concept of wine sommeliers as a must have for restaurants has only really taken off in the past fifty years. One can only wait and see if the "water sommelier" makes as big a splash.

Until then, a bottle of "l'eau de table" will do just fine. I'll have what's on tap.