Each mineral water is unique
Minerals and the taste of water
The taste of water is determined by its mineral content – each mineral offers a distinctive flavour. It’s the quantity and combination of minerals naturally found in water that are responsible for a mineral water’s characteristic taste and specific identity by which a connoisseur refers. A subtle bitter taste, for example, is produced by a proportional mix of calcium and magnesium.
Tasting mineral water
Mineral water has its own vocabulary, as do chocolate, wine and tea. According to its structure, it can have a slight “salty” taste, at times be a bit “acidy” or have an “mineral” side to it. So many barely noticeable properties that an attentive and seasoned taster can distinguish.
Taste is not the only sense appealed to when tasting mineral water. Water also arouses a tactile sense: our sense of smell is influenced by diverse textures that invite us to label one water as “biting”, “light” or “sharp”. . .
When the nose smells a glass of mineral water, it perceives little. Nothing “stands out”. However, when we drink, the nose is “indirectly” influenced by smells that can be determined only “retro-nasally”: we call these smells aromas. Perceived by the olfactory tract, aromas come from volatile molecules contained in water, which vary according to the water temperature.
The vocabulary of water tasting
Mineral water has its own vocabulary, as do chocolate, wine and tea.
Classification of global impressions relating to water:
- Hard or soft: in the first case, water has a strong impression, its aromas fill the mouth. In the latter case, there is no particular sensation.
- Balanced: the different sensations and taste features are in harmony and in right proportion.
- Fresh: pleasant sensation and cooling effect in the mouth.
- Long or short: depending on whether or not the water leaves a lasting effect in-mouth once swallowed.
Definitions of water flavours and aromas:
- Acid or alkaline: according to whether the tongue senses an acid taste or the contrary (at times described as a carbonated taste).
- Sweet: the water has an alkaline taste with a hint of a sweet taste.
- Mineral: the water is without movement and has a flinty taste.
- Salty: the water has a dominating salty taste, either due to a high chloride and sodium content or due to a high mineral content (we would then use the term saline).
Description of the texture of water or the in-mouth sensation
- Heavy / light: according to whether or not the water demonstrates easy movement in the mouth or if there is no reaction.
- Supple: when water flows easily in the mouth.
- Rough: when water does not move smoothly in the mouth.
How to serve mineral water
Mineral water should be served in an unopened bottle: this guarantees its purity, quality and origin. Even though sparkling mineral water is best served from 8-12°C, still water is best served at “room temperature” (15-18°C), after having been left out in ambient temperature. The temperature determines the different flavours and aromas the water will produce in-mouth.
As is the case for wine, the shape of the water glass can have an impact on the flavour. Fine crystal glasses procure and increase the pleasure of water tasting. Slightly rounded water glasses lead the water to the points on the tongue where the sweetness can be perceived the most.
In order to experience mineral water at its best, it is advisable to hand-wash the glasses in warm water with no detergent – so that there is no lingering taste of detergent, so easily perceived given the delicate aromas of water.
The lemon slice is to be avoided if the customer has not ordered it.
What to serve with mineral water
The more a mineral water is light and neutral, the better it will accompany wine. Also, it is not recommended to serve a sparkling water with white wine or Champagne. Accordingly, it is preferable not to serve mineral water with a high mineral content to accompany red wine, as this reinforces the tannins, producing a bitter taste in-mouth.
Still and soft waters are particularly advised when dishes have “a bit of sweetness” for example deserts but also seafood, horsemeat and all “sweet” garnishes such as potatoes or certain vegetables (green peas, carrots).
Water is the perfect “break” during a meal – be it at the beginning, between dishes or to pass from one strong tasting food to another. Water can maintain and extend the pleasure of experiencing new tastes throughout the meal.