BENGALURU: What’s in a bottle of water? While the uninitiated would dismiss the transparent liquid, for water sommelier Ganesh Iyer, director operations India & Indian Subcontinent, VEEN, there’s a lot that can be detected and recognised in a sample of water.
Having been associated with the water industry for over 20 years and six brands of water, Iyer decided he wanted to validated his experience by getting certificated at the Doemens Academy in Graefelfing, Germany. In 2018, he took up an 18-day programme, during which he visited three factories, the most important of which, Adelholzener Alpenquellen GmbH in the Chiemgau region in Southern Germany, produces medicinal water, mineral water and soft drinks. The programme culminated in an examination which Iyer terms intense.
“There were 80-odd training sessions. It required me to take up an exam at the end of it. In a controlled set of conditions, we were given samples of water which had to be differentiated on the basis of appearance , smell and finally taste and have them identified basis their mineral contribution in the said brand of water,” he says, adding that “one of the first and most important lessons learned we learned was that no two mineral waters are alike. Every mineral water and every spring water is unique, due to its origin, its composition, its nutritional benefits and its characteristic taste, by which it can be distinguished from other mineral or spring waters. Furthermore, many waters show health promoting properties.”
While wine and beer sommerliers have made their presence felt, Mumbai-based Iyer points out that there are very few qualified individuals who are trained in the F& B space to detect natural qualities, including mineral composition, hardness and age. “For instance even in the case of the ground water sourced by borewell in say Karnataka is way different from the one that is in Andhra Pradesh or Telengana because amongst other factors like water level, and others one of the differentiators is the hardness level,” he says.
Coming back to the culinary table, he points out that a Indian meal best goes with natural mineral water which has a good amount of TDS (Totally Dissolved Solids) which enhances the flavour of the cuisine, whereas a continental seafood dish or even seafood salads goes well with a sparkling water with a low level of carbonation)
Unlike wine, the taste of which can be detected soon after a sip, water requires a sensitive palate. “Generally, we are not used to figuring out the sulphate, biocarbonate or calcium content. You really have to be passionate in this field,” he says, adding that in the next 2-3 years, there will be many more experts in the field. “I would love to do a food and water pairing session, but I don’t want it to appear pretentious,” he says.