Flavors & Taste of Water

At first appreciation, glacier waters and mineral waters may not seem to have the individual characteristics that distinguish wines. Through development of ones taste buds and what they are signaling, subtle differences can be discerned between waters as one can discern between wines.

This chapter will examine the components of flavor as they apply to water.


Taste, smell and mouthfeel ( a food’s tactile sensation) combine to produce flavor. Sensory receptors in the nose, mouth report information on each of these three components to the brain, where the different signals are integrated in a highly complex process which we still do not fully understand. Food writers often pay little attention to mouthfeel , but it is a very important component of food, water, and wine and what we recognize as a component of Flavor.

The size, amount and distribution of bubbles – or lack thereof – are essential to the mouthfeel of water. Balance (Carbonation levels) is another way to describe mouthfeel.

  Taste Smell Mouthfeel
Wine Complex Complex Uniform
Water Very subtle Absent Complex

Based on these factors, wine tasting emphasizes taste and smell, whereas mouthfeel is the most important characteristic to consider in a water tasting.

You may have seen a map of the tonque divided into regions sensitive to different tastes—salty, sweet, bitter and sour and savory. This map was proven to be wrong in 1974, and it was found that the cells making up the tastebuds were found universally spread across the tongue and hard and soft palate and they are all sensitive to any kind of taste.

We can perceive thousands of different odors, but unlike taste no scheme to categorize basic smells has been established. Instead the associated object usually lends its name to the smell: An orange may taste sweet , but it smells like and orange. Nerve cells that act as olfactory receptors have a lifespan of about 30 days.

If you can tell the difference in texture between a creamy pudding, a crunchy pickle a crispy potato chip and a soft bread, then you know how satisfying mouthfeel is.

Rules for Bottled Water and Food Only

When water is the only beverage you are serving the rules below should be a starting point for your individual exploration as to what you like best.

The next section we will describe how to choose water when you are serving wine as the meal’s primary beverage.

The 75% Rule:
The mouthfeel sensation of the whole dish should be matched with the carbonation level of the water. The mouthfeel generated by the bubbles should be matched with the mouthfeel of the whole dish. Loud, big , bold bubbles overpower subtle dishes , while Still water might be too great a contrast with crispy food. Slightly bigger bubbles might pair with a Sush dish and big loud bubbles with a crispy dish.

The 20% Rule:
The dominant food items of the dish should be matched with the mineral content of the water: Low TDS (like SNO™) water has a light , crisp perception while higher TDS levels like Gerosteiner give the water some weight and substance. High levels of sodium (salt), bicarbonate and silica ( or their absence) can also have the some impact on the perception of water. Use sodium free water with low TDS for caviar or water high bicarbonate level for cheese. Softer waters ( low in calcium and magnesium) like SNO™ with higher silica levels can display a nice sweet softness that works well with deserts.

The 5% Rule:
Fine tune the drinking experience with the water’s acidity or alkalinity. SNO™ has a neutral pH, which works well with anything. Sometimes a sweet perception is possible in waters with a slight alkalinity like SNO™ while waters with a very high pH may demonstrate a very subtle bitterness. All the tastes and mouthfeel of natural unaltered waters should be appreciated for their taste qualities at meals. During the day however when the heavy lifting of replenishing ones daily 2.5 liters f water loss, a water with a natural untouched water like SNO™ with a low TDS is preferred over a similar quality water with a higher TDS.

Matching Water with Food:
Mouthfeel (75%) is the most important of the factors guiding the way bottled water is matched with food. Mineral content (20%) and pH (5%)/acidity play more minor roles.

Matching with Mouthfeel (75%):
Use (Fine Waters classifications of) Balance(carbonation) to establish a progression in multiple-course meals and to match or contrast the water with the mouthfeel of the dish. One of the prime joys of matching water and food – and one of the true marks of water connoisseurship is the hosts ability to be able to change waters for each course and developing a progression of water to guide you through the meal. Drinking a different water for each course highlights their subtle differences and the progression adds enormously to the dining experience. If your favorite restaurant does not offer more than one water, ask them to consider adding more options. For a five-course dinner a good water progression might looklike this:

  • Hors d’oevre: Bold or SNO™ Sparkling. This is much like having a taste of champagne – it draws attention and is bubbly and loud.

  • Salad: Effervescent. A nice contrast with the previous water but not entirely without bubbles.

  • First course (light seafood for example): Still. You will notice the absence of bubbles and focus on the water.

  • Second course (poultry, for example): Effervescent or Light bubbles. Reintroduce some mouthfeel and match the water with the texture of the course.

  • Main course (red meat for example): Light or Classic. Match it with the texture of the course.

  • Desert: SNO™ Still or SNO™ sparkling.

Matching with Mineral Content:
The amount of TDS (total dissolved solids) is after mouthfeel the second most important factor in pairing water with food. The TDS in water ranges from absolute 0 of distilled water such as (Le Bleu) to a whopping 13,298 mg/l for Do nat Mg from Slovenia.

SNO™ Still with a natural TDS of 52 has a very light neutral crisp clean taste and goes well with fish, chicken and lean red meats. While the SNO™ sparkling also is a good compliment to lean red meats and for contrast to sushi and Carpaccio.

Matching with pH Factor:
Most of the foods we eat are acidic, ranging from a pH of 2.4 for cranberry sauce to 7.2 for spinach, shrimp and certain cheeses. Use the taste of water as influenced by pH factor (sour, sweet or bitter) to compliment or contrast with the taste of the dish.

SNO™ still with a pH of 7.4 would compliment well with cheese of a pH of 7.5 or contrast well with crisp fried calamari or oyster of pH 5.7. On the other hand you could reverse the rolls and pair these with the SNO™ sparkling. pH of 6.2 range.

Matching Water with Food Intangibles

Beyond the pure flavor considerations, you should also take intangible qualities like presentation and water’s story into account when choosing your bottled water.

Every good sommelier tells you a little story about the wine he or she is pouring you. Does it make the wine taste better? No. Does it make the wine feel more special and unique? Absolutely. The same is true for Water. Sharing the story of the water, its source and origin, vintage and the location and circumstances of its bottling can contribute significantly to the overall experience.

Rules for Bottled Water & Wine:
If water is consumed alongside wine, different considerations apply: The water now plays a secondary role and needs to be matched with the wine not the food. This is very important you do not want water and wine competing with each other for attention.

If you drink carefully matched wine with your dish only stil water is appropriate- a clear distinction between main character (wine) and supporting cast (water) is recommended. There is a slight difference between red and white wine: With white wine; choose a water with a low mineral content like SNO™ with a TDS of 68 and a neutral pH of 7.9 ; red wine like a Barolo or Bordeaux demands water with a medium to high mineral content and a neutral pH. For contrast you could pair these heavier wines with a SNO™ still or for more mouthfeel with a SNO™ sparkling water, low TDS, medium carbonation.

The water should have a slightly higher temperature than the wine to prevent taking attention away from the wine. This means on the SNO™ glass bottles the SNO™wflake should be on the verge of turning blue or just tittering between blue and white or 15°C .

Think about stemware glasses that complement the wineglasses or use a white wine glass for Burgundy as the water glass. A fine water deserves the same hand blown lead crystal to be decanted into as your wine is.

Drinking Temperature:
For centuries humans have been drinking water at the natural temperature of its source of storage facility. Only recently have we begun manipulating water’s drinking temperature. SNO™ is naturally captured at 4°C in nature. It however is best drunk at around 15°C (58°F) and it is for this reason the SNO™wflake on the glass bottle will turn blue at 15°C. Varying the drinking temperature slightly from colder than blue to warmer than blue ie white will give you as in varying the temperature of a white wine from between 13°C (55 °F) to slightly warmer by keeping the bottle outside of the ice-cooler, will give you a slightly different taste to the wine.