Can the water we drink be described as smooth, fruity, woodsy, herby or simply tasty to the tongue? Does tasting and rating water for its characteristics call for a separate profession?
Yes, and yes again, says Ganesh Iyer, India’s first and only certified water sommelier.
We are familiar with a sommelier whose job is to serve and give advice about wine and make food pairing recommendations to guests in a restaurant and oenologists who specialise in wine making, but not with water sommeliers. However, the day is not far, when we would choose to raise a glass of water to toast someone or to celebrate a special occasion instead of with champagne or wine.
“Water is set to be the next big thing primarily in the culinary world and water sommeliers the most sought after experts in the next 5-10 years,” says Iyer who is part of a miniscule group of around 112 water sommeliers in the world, who make a living from tasting water. “I am greeted with incredulous laughter when I say I am a water sommelier because, on the one hand we are a water-starved nation where 80 per cent of the households have no safe drinking water, and on the other we have a water sommelier.”
Despite being associated with the water industry for over two decades, Iyer first heard of a certification programme for water sommeliers in 2010. In June 2018, he was certified at the internationally-renowned Doemens Academy in Graefelfing, Germany, where he received sensorial training in understanding the nuances and varied properties of water and how they are unique to their origin, how each of them differs in composition, nutritional benefits, taste and health properties, if any.
“I assess water by looking at its appearance, smell, mouthfeel and aftertaste. Water tastes different based on its terroir, age and hardness, its virginality, pH level and TDS (totally dissolved solids) content. Most people do not realise that water has a huge impact on everything presented on a plate or in a glass. A fine dine experience is incomplete without pairing water with the food and drinks,” said Iyer, who is Director-Operations, India and Indian Subcontinent at Veen.
Veen is a Finnish company that bottles natural mineral water from spring sources in Finnish Lapland and Bhutan. It entered India in 2013 with still and sparkling water in recyclable glass bottles. While the bottled water market in India has over 100 players, the natural mineral water market has 4-5 players including Veen, Himalayan, Catch and Qua.
“We have been growing revenue by 30-38 per cent YoY since 2013. Veen is available in 38 cities pan India including Ladakh, Rameshwaram, Kutch and Arunachal Pradesh. By December-end, we will expand to 60 cities,” said Iyer.