Putting Water to the Taste Test

February 16, 2016

Featured

Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting event ranks tap and bottled water
 
A panel of judges from the media and world of water choose winning water in the categories of municipal, bottled non-carbonated, purified drinking, and sparkling water. Photo courtesy of Travel Berkeley Springs (W.Va.).

A panel of judges from the media and world of water choose winning water in the categories of municipal, bottled non-carbonated, purified drinking, and sparkling water. Photo courtesy of Travel Berkeley Springs (W.Va.).

Both tap and bottled water will be put to the test at the 26th annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting event. From Feb. 25–28, judges will try more than 100 water samples from across U.S. and around the globe in one of the world’s largest water tasting competitions.

“Water is our most precious natural resource; we can’t live without it. We must protect it,” said Jill Klein Rone, producer for the event. “We celebrate the great job municipal superintendents do to deliver good, clean water to their constituents, and recognize bottlers for the quality of their product and for maintaining that quality. We have dozens of stories of how a medal won in Berkeley Springs changed the business life of a water company or brought honor to a municipal system.”

Judging the taste

Arthur von Wiesenberger, known as the event’s “watermaster” and author and professional wine taster, trains the judges for the event. A panel of 10 to 12 judges from the media and world of water will choose winners in the categories of municipal water, bottled non-carbonated, purified (bottled) drinking water, and sparkling water.

Members of the public can attend the Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting event and taste water alongside judges but have no vote. Photo courtesy of Travel Berkeley Springs.

Members of the public can attend the Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting event and taste water alongside judges but have no vote. Photo courtesy of Travel Berkeley Springs.

Water is judged by its appearance, odor, mouth-feel, and aftertaste on a scale of 1 to 5; flavor on a scale of 1 to 10; and overall impression on a scale of 1 to 14, said Klein Rone.

“Originally, the water tasting was started to bring people to Berkeley Springs in the winter time and to get publicity,” Klein Rone said.

As one of the largest and longest water tastings in the world, the event not only spreads the name of Berkeley Springs “far and wide, it also has become an important institution in the water world,” she said. And, she added, in 2015, it was dubbed by BuzzFeed and The Week as the world’s most prestigious water tasting.

Bottled water entries are displayed at the water tasting event. Photo courtesy of Travel Berkeley Springs.

Bottled water entries are displayed at the water tasting event. Photo courtesy of Travel Berkeley Springs.

Entries come from near and far

Water suppliers can enter the competition by filling out an entry form and shipping water samples. But event organizers encourage suppliers to attend, if possible, and send in early submissions to compensate for shipping losses or delays, Klein Rone said.

Since the event began in 1990, more than 700 different water samples have been entered from locations around the world, such as the U.S., Greece, New Zealand, and The Republic of Korea. The municipal water category has been a part of the competition since the competition started, drawing as many as 50 entries, Klein Rone said.

Introducing the 2015 winners

In 2015, the 23 municipal water entries included three from Canada, one from The Republic of Korea, and one from Thailand. The municipal winners were Hamilton, Ohio, which added another first place to its 2009 and 2010 first place wins; Emporia, Kan., in second; and Clearbrook, British Columbia, in third. There was a three-way tie between Montpelier, Ohio; Dickinson, N.D.; and Eldorado Springs, Colo., for fourth place. Fengari Platinum, a first-time entrant from Athens, Greece, won over 39 other entries for the title of best bottled water. And Daphne-Ultra Premium Quality Natural Mineral Sparkling from Athens, Greece, won best sparking water, according to an event news release.

“The impact of winning this event is extraordinary for a bottler,” said Jeanne Mozier, a founder of the event. “Several have experienced exponential growth, others closed major deals, and almost all winners redesign their labels to display their winning medal.”

Including hands-on activities for the public

Members of the public can attend and taste water alongside judges during the event. Photo courtesy of Travel Berkeley Springs.

Members of the public can attend and taste water alongside judges during the event. Photo courtesy of Travel Berkeley Springs.

Members of the public also are invited to attend. They can sit in on the judge training, taste water alongside the judges, and submit votes for the people’s choice award for best packaging. Last year, Eternal Naturally Alkaline Spring Water of Dandridge, Tenn., won this award for its book-end bottles.

This year’s educational seminars, which also are open to the public, include a discussion about the municipal greening of water in light of drought and water shortages.

Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights

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