water sommelier
Image courtesy of Aaron Tilley

The water’s lovely: Inside the world of a water sommelier

Do you need a water sommelier in your entourage? Martin Riese, California’s finest, thinks so...

America’s O-1 visa for Extraordinary Ability is a permit for travel usually given to major league athletes, international rock stars or cancer-curing scientists: foreign nationals, in other words, with one-of-a-kind talents or skill sets.

Martin Riese, who moved to California from Germany in 2011, was granted it for tasting water. This tells you a great deal about California, but a lot more about Martin Riese — the world’s most successful water sommelier. A consultant, host and status symbol to the international beau monde, Riese has a palette that can detect a speck of magnesium at a hundred paces. He is to tap water as Jancis Robinson is to Romanée Conti. Forget Jesus — Riese is turning water into wine.

The German first noticed his uncanny talent at the age of five, when he began commenting to his bewildered parents about the various qualities of European tap waters whilst on holiday. Today, he is the water sommelier over at Petit Ermitage Hotel in West Hollywood and the creator of Beverly Hills 9OH2O — winner, unsurprisingly, of the World’s Best Water Award in 2013.

water sommelier

What was the first water you remember drinking that really blew you away?
I remember trying Cave H2O, a small water brand in the region of Weserbergland in Germany. Amazing water — almost fruity like gummy bears.

Is tasting water like tasting a fine wine?
Yes. We all know that wine has terroir, so you can taste the minerality and soils of the region where the grapes are growing. Water is 100% terroir driven. All water comes from the same source. It’s rain water that drips down onto different soils and will wash out the minerality of different stone layers. This minerality is measured by TDS (Total Dissolved Solids).

I taste water with wine glasses, which are designed to bring all the flavour out of a beverage. I don’t chill the waters and I open several bottles at once.

What are some of the common misconceptions in the world of water?
That water should be pure. I know tons of companies trying to sell the consumer the idea of purity, but really pure water does not exist. Water really likes to dissolve other substances inside itself. That’s because water molecules have strange Mickey Mouse shapes, with two hydrogen nuclei at one end and an oxygen nucleus at the other end, each with different electronic charges.

Water molecules use those charged hydrogen bonds to interact and cling to one another, but they also cling to any molecule that approaches them. That makes it likely that water will dissolve a bit of any object it encounters into itself. And the purer a sample of water gets, the more strongly it will try to dissolve ions from any object it encounters.

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