Water and the Sommelier. Taste for Life
Author: Oleg Cherne
— Would you like some beer? Red wine?
— No, thank you kindly. I’m already drunk. Grand merci.
— Maybe some seltzer water?
The staff captain perked up.
— Oh yes, yes! Exactly… I could use some seltzer water… Bring me a glass.
Alexander Kuprin, «Staff Captain Rybnikov»
«Does your pharmacy have something like…» Obtesov mumbles, wiggling his fingers. «Something allegorical, something stimulating… Like seltzer water! Do you have seltzer water?»
«We do,» says the pharmacist.
«Bravo! You’re not just a woman, you’re a fairy!»
In the last 20 years, solar activity has been changing drastically, leading to significant fluctuations in the Earth’s magnetic field. The rotation speed of the Earth’s core is also changing to a certain degree. These factors influence the state of human cells, as the dipoles in them are also rotating faster.
In these conditions, the quality of water the body requires increases by several times. Our cells need nutrition, but not just any water is ideal for their functioning. Today, there are two professions—nutrition experts and sommeliers—perfectly suited to spread the facts of quality water among a receptive audience.
While a nutritionist helps people treat health issues, sommeliers help diners better understand the taste of water. That is why we placed this article on water and wine in The Sommelier Way section. When a restaurant hires a sommelier, it embarks on the path to becoming an Institute of Taste.
Water: The Taste for Life
It isn’t news to anyone that water plays an important role in human life. However, very few actually pause to consider how water can in fact influence our taste for life. It is a sommelier’s mission to uncover and introduce a true passion for water among guests. Thus, sommeliers are in a crucial way responsible for the quality of the water they serve.
In this article, I would like to discuss how the water we drink is a determining factor in our taste for life, and how as a drink it defines if we can enjoy other things. Water can alter the taste of food and drinks we consume.
Our society has always had a healthy interest in water. However, it can be quite difficult to actually realize what water can give us. Sure, it gave rise to all living creatures on earth, but it is also important to remember that what we drink determines our quality of life. And the most important drink of all is water.
Water forms and sustains all the vital processes that occur in our bodies. It’s the quality of water, not the quantity, that we need to develop the organoleptic capacities of our body and that in the end define how well we can perceive and enjoy taste. If we understand the true taste of water, it becomes easier for us to comprehend and value other drinks, be it wine, coffee, tea, or even kefir.
Our bodies are 70% water, and when we drink high-quality water, its gratitude won’t be long in showing itself. The search for a quality drink is the essence of our taste for life. If we drink quality liquids, the overall quality of our blood, saliva, and gastric juice improves. Food digestion improves and does more good for our body, and protein and starch dissolves faster. Body temperature regulation stabilizes, and our bodies cleanse harmful toxins faster.
The secret of quality liquids is that the better the liquid we drink, the less water and food we need. This way we help our bodies with its main job — nurturing cells. When well fed, cells produce more energy. Although it is true they are always producing energy, the quality can vary widely.
When suggesting water, a sommelier must observe closely what the guests are eating and drinking, and what their mood is.
Teaching people how to drink wine is an art. Keep in mind that wine has a high acid content, with a pH level of about 3.3–3.6. Dry wines aged for at least three to five years must always be accompanied by food or water. Wines that I would recommend to consume without any snacks or food must be young, still filled with the invigorating energy of the sun and soil, and vintage wines still in the process of internal fermentation. Still, in this case water helps enjoy the deepest shades of taste.
In order to find full pleasure in wine, one has to learn to combine it with water. This is especially important if you are also serving cheese, grapes, and bread. The quality of water here is simply essential. When we talk about quality water, we mean water that nurtures the cells of our bodies. If it has poor nutritional qualities, we’re forced to consume too much of it. Unstructured water in fact flushes micronutrients out of the body, first and foremost, calcium and potassium.
Knowledge of water is no less important for a sommelier than knowledge of wine, especially today, when many people still do not think beyond the «still or sparkling» criterion. The bare minimum for a sommelier is to know the difference between alkaline, neutral and acidic water, and to have all three kinds at hand to control the quality of the taste and health of the person for whom he or she serves wine or other alcohol.
Water Research through History
There have been three important periods of water research in the written history of humankind. In antiquity, it was perceived as a force of nature, and the very concept of water was a lot more complex than it is today. Greek philosophers, including Thales of Miletus, Aristotle, and Hippocrates, explored the properties of water.Back then, wine was also on equal terms with water. The Greek and Romans treated the process of mixing water and wine as a mysterious ritual. The correct proportion allowed then to form a new energy link. For these purposes, they most likely used only water from sacred springs. Gradually, water and wine become the basis of religious rites and a notable social phenomenon.
In the Middle Ages, water was studied by alchemists, first Arab, then followed by Europeans. Teaching about water at this point becomes predominantly esoteric and mystical, and loses its social function. Things continued in this manner until Napoleon Bonaparte noticed Lavoisier’s research.
Napoleon’s mind was intrigued with thoughts of human physiology. It’s hard to say today what exactly Napoleon wanted to find out, but one thing is for sure: his military activity in Italy and Egypt remain vastly understudied. He had a specific interest in the libraries of Rome and Alexandria, and his campaign to Palestine is also shrouded in mystery. According to one version, Bonaparte wanted to discover the spring where Christ baptized Hebrew kings.
On the whole, his actions were not dissimilar to what Julius Caesar aimed to achieve. But while Caesar relied on works developed by the Celtic druids, Napoleon worked with Lavoisier’s research. In both cases, they uncovered the main positive quality of water—its structure.
Water pH as an Indicator of Health Benefits
By its nature, water is a structured substance, and this substance can contain different volumes of energy. Structured water fills our bodies with the maximum amount of energy in the most efficient manner. What’s more, such water won’t destroy the already existing connections in us.
A molecule of water consists of one atom of oxygen, and two atoms of hydrogen forming an isosceles triangle. These triangles of water further arrange to create crystals of various shapes. It is of the utmost importance for a person what type of crystals they consume.
The main indicator of water quality is its so-called active response, the hydrogen index of acidity (pH), which depends on the concentration of hydrogen ions. This index also determines the quality of cell nutrition. The pH index shows a water’s activity level: at pH=7 and 25°C, water is neutral, meaning it only satiates our body, and does not actively interact with cells. At pH<7, water is acidic and actively interacts with cells. At pH>7, water is alkaline, it cleanses cells, opens them up, but does not nurture them. In nature, the pH index of water may vary from 3.2 to 10.5.
Microorganisms and cells reacts to different pH levels in different ways; it all depends on the acid-base balance in the human body. The preferences of a guest can tell a sommelier a lot about this value. If a diner orders wine, they are probably prepared to consume a liquid with a pH of 3.3–3.6. Consequently, the quality of cell nutrition in this individual is still high, so you can be assured that when offering them water with an increased acidity, they will perceive its taste correctly. You can also help your guests a bit and increase acidity, especially when wine isn’t served with food and a person want to enjoy, for example, a Sassicaia.
When serving water with increased acidity, a sommelier should understand what type of water is best in this case and how it fulfills the guest’s individual needs. In this way, the pH index can maintain the amount of energy in the drink and human body.
Looking at some popular drinks, we notice some curious values: the average pH of beer is 4.0–4.5; for wine 3.3–3.6, 5.0 for coffee, 5.5 for tea and 6.7 for milk. As a rule, people who drink beer do not need sommeliers. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to make sure the beer is made from high quality water, otherwise it might cause what’s colloquially known as a beer belly. Cells cannot process poor quality water with the same efficiency.
A healthy person should consume water with a balanced content of minerals and increased acidity (we’ll talk more about minerals below). This is what our cells can absorb most efficiently. Water with a 5.5–6.7 pH index nurtures our cells, while all alkaline water does is sustain their existing state, which might already be damaged by a poor diet and unhealthy lifestyle. Alkaline mediums are most favorable for viruses and bacteria. However, if a person’s body has an increased acidity, the consumption of sour products can do harm to their stomach and even breathing processes, which is why it would be wise to offer to them water with a higher alkaline content.
An acidic medium helps maintain the structure of the human body, and establish a connection between its parts. By consuming acidic drinks, we create an internal effort that ties the structures of the body together, balances the state of organs and parts of the body, and makes the body more of a complete whole.
Otherwise, your body will become a medium with favorable conditions for various viruses, including what might be living in food. Food is the main source of bacteria and viruses our bodies are subjected to. When we talk about the immune system, we almost always mean the connections between parts of the body. If these are in distress, it is easy for viruses to get inside the body and start reproducing. This creates the conditions for oncological diseases. Cancer is caused by the microorganisms accumulated in a cell because a person does not know how to cleanse them.
Quality water, in combination with wine and hard liquors, can in fact neutralize the negative effects of alcohol. The right water means the right arrangement of molecules in relation to one another, and in high-quality water the molecules rest in close, tight positions.
Alcohol and Water
Alcohol in combination with water is a special geometric structure, which has yet to be studied thoroughly. Therefore, a sommelier must conduct their own research by combining different types of alcohol with water, if the restaurant’s menu allows for such experimentation. The ability to match water with alcohol requires style and superb taste. However, its most important aspect is the positive effect on the human body.
A sommelier must realize that the main goal of water is to re-tune a person’s taste, and prepare them for the consumption of quality drinks. Most importantly, the pH of medicinal table water has a positive effect on brain. Water is excellent at dissolving food. It does not dilute alcohol, it only makes it better and cleaner. The combination of water and wine, or other alcohol, improves the qualities of water, making it more nutritional.
If you consume water without wine, make sure that it does not contain any harmful additives (although by now this should already be clear). However, plain filtered water is not necessarily beneficial. It may in fact flush out good micronutrients and vitamins from our body.
Serve water at 10–12 degree Celsius. The higher the alkaline content, the cooler the serving temperature. Do not drink water rich in minerals with wine or other alcohol, as it will distort their taste. There may also be other chemical reactions harmful to your health.
Any water should always be stored in a cool, dark place, for example, in a refrigerator, especially if it is in a plastic container. If the storage conditions are violated, the clusters (molecule groups) of water are destroyed. This damage can be caused by excess vibrations, (music, noises, elevators) or temperature violations. Water can also be damaged by informational impacts. There have been many studies of informational impacts on water, most importantly the works of the outstanding Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto. This is a fascinating topic, but due to the high volume of false information surrounding it, we advise against using it actively as a sommelier. The best solution is to stick to quality water and the correct storage conditions.
How to Serve Water
Water is the queen of any table. No matter what other drinks are served, water must always occupy the dominant position. The only exception to this rule are places where people come to drink beer. Nevertheless, even these places should also have water and the corresponding glasses available for guests.
In a restaurant, water glasses should be placed at the imaginary intersection of the line drawn through the upper end of the table to the tip of the first knife. Water glasses are the centerpiece and an eye-catching decoration of any table. The best material for these vessels is clear, light-colored glass. The bottle for water should also emphasize its importance on the table, as water is an indicator of the restaurant’s attitude to its guests. Of course, plastic bottles should never be placed on the table. Water should also always be accompanied by ice and lemon slices. Especially when the water you serve is not premium quality—these little compliments allow each guest to improve the acidity and structure of their water as they choose. Ice must be made from table water, with a clear and defined structure.
If the light in the restaurant is dimmed, it is recommended that the sommelier uses a small flashlight to highlight glasses to prove the quality of the water. If you decant wine, candles can also be used.
When serving water, make sure to remove the cap in front of guests. If it is good water in a visually appealing glass bottle, try to make the entire process aesthetically pleasing. Pour water into glasses with respect for the liquid being poured. Keep in mind that for a sommelier, each bottle is a story.
If you are a guest at a restaurant, you can also pour water out for other guests. Men should make sure that ladies always have their glasses filled with water. Never fill glasses to the brim: instead, fill it a little more than half, so there is space left for ice and lemon. If you serve sparkling water, make sure the gas hasn’t settled.
Different grapes behave differently in the presence of various types of water. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon usually requires soft water, as the wine made from it as a rule has a very defined structure. San Pellegrino goes well with Malbec and Merlot. With Pinotage from South Africa, serve Apollinaris. Selters is perfect for Italian wines.
But even the best water will still be ruined if the packing process was shoddy. A good restaurant should only serve water in glass bottles. Low quality plastic damages the structure of water. If you serve water in a plastic bottle, make sure it is always stored between 16–18°C. With thin plastic, this should not exceed 14°C. Water in polyethylene (PE) bottles is typically the worst variant. In certain cases, PET packaging is acceptable. Even good spring water can go bad if stored in the wrong conditions.
If you do not pay attention to the water you serve to guests, it can cause «energy stress» resulting from the liquid’s low quality. Sommeliers should also avoid any carbonated liquids, such as lemonades and other chemical compounds. The issue here is not just that they might damage tooth enamel or body cells, but that they distort the real taste of other things consumed.
Classifications of Mineral Water
The second half of this article is dedicated to types of water and their mineral content. Of course, a sommelier does not have to have a thorough understanding of biochemical reactions, but a basic knowledge is necessary, along with a readiness to help coax out a person’s taste.
A person’s taste will most likely develop in the presence of acidic products. We learn the same thing from traditional Chinese medicine. Its theory of five flavors identifies «sour» as a source of energy activation in the body. Modern people consume quite a lot of food, including modified and fat products, which means we should pay more attention to drinks and food with a lower pH. In this case, the acidity of consumed products should be balanced with respect to the existing acid-base balance of the human body. Mineral content is also important, but the paramount knowledge is of the types of water.
All mineral water can be divided into three types: table, table medicinal, and medicinal. It all depends on its chemical composition. If the total minerality does not exceed 1 g/L, it is table water; 1–10 g/L stands for medical-table water, and over 10 g/L for purely medicinal water.
Table mineral water is valuable only in terms of quenching thirst. It won’t provide any real satiation, as low-mineral water does not stay in the cells for long. Table mineral water is good for making tea or coffee. But never bring it to a boil, or the mineral salts will fall out and form harmful compounds. This is especially dangerous for kidneys and the formation of kidney stones.
Since this is the most common type of water and therefore often includes water of low quality, it is very hard to combine it with wine in the correct way. Using water like this, a sommelier should know about their regional springs, and opt for water to be retrieved from sources in the same general area as the restaurant. Table water suffers easily from transportation, changes in temperature, and informational impacts.
We cannot also help but mention here artificially mineralized water. It falls below the table water class, has a mediocre taste and doesn’t combine well with wine. It must also be taken into account that all artificially mineralized solutions have side effects caused by the addition of hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide or radioactive radon. Artificially mineralized water can be specifically infused with gas to balance out its taste and protect it from bacteria and excess information. The following section focus on the gas content in water.
Not a single self-respecting restaurant should serve medicinal water. This type of beverage belongs in pharmacies. The consumption of medicinal table water should also be strictly agreed on with your doctor. However, this is nonetheless the widest class, and every sommelier should know about its varieties.
Medicinal-table water contains from 1 to 10 g of minerals per liter. This is the most interesting class in terms of both taste and health benefits, with a wide range that is useful to learn more about it. There are about a dozen globally recognized producers, along with some regional producers of high-quality water known only in the local area.
The problem here lies first of all in production technologies. How is this water bottled, where is it stored? Unfortunately, in Russia, despite the fact that there are excellent springs available, it is hard to find a quality finished product. No matter how much a sommelier may resist, they are forced to use water from overseas.
Medicinal table waters have the most positive effects when combined with wine and hard liquor. A sommelier should ensure that there is no water on the table with an increased bromine content, which makes a person idle and passive.
Still and Sparkling Water
Sparkling water can be mineralized naturally or artificially. Sparkling water is considered more stable against impurities thanks to the added carbon dioxide.
Artificially aerated water is the best way to quench thirst. However, with a pH over 7.5 or below 6.5, it can cause harmful reactions in the body. In the first case, it may make the bones more fragile, while in the latter it increases stomach acidity. Moreover, the volume of dissociated ions in water is more important than the volume of dissociated salts, making it impossible to substitute natural water for one that is carbonated artificially.
Artificial aeration (especially in sweet soft drinks) disrupts normal brain functioning. For example, multiple studies conducted by the John Hopkins University have indicated that such drinks can cause both psychological and physiological addiction. This state is caused either by caffeine or by the burning of energy taking place during consumption. The most dangerous element at play is the phosphorus contained in orthophosphoric acid, which affects the structure of bones and bone marrow.
As you can see, every sommelier should feel responsible for the health of the person they are serving. The restaurant owner should also realize that a «good» restaurant lives up to its name in every tiny aspect.
Naturally sparkling water is the rarest, but also the most valuable type. With a pH level of 5.5–6.5 and balanced mineral content, it is the best source of nutrition for our cells.
Here, Selters brand water is a premium example of the perfect mineral water. You have to try it at least once to understand what’s so good about it, and I can guarantee that afterwards you won’t ever want to go back to other types of water.
The environmentally pure Selters water is rich in healthy minerals in balanced proportions. Its precisely this balance that provides the perfect nutrition for all human cells. It is also rich in neutral molecules, which combined with a balanced chemical content, increase the alkalinity of blood plasma.
It has a high mineral content of 1.57 g/L. The sodium content in this water activates ferments, supports muscle tone and maintains the balance of acids and alkali in the body. Chloride and bicarbonate form an optimal balance between acids and salts in the stomach, while calcium and magnesium strengthen teeth and bones. Selters water soothes the nervous system, sustains the cardiovascular system, raises the amount of hemoglobin in blood, regulates the balance of electrolytes, and prevents calcium from passing from the bones into the muscles even during the most intense physical labor.
German and Russian scientists recommend drinking this water daily as a preventive measure against diseases, and to restore the body’s vital functions. Selters water is obtained from springs with common salt, in particular, cold salt and carbon dioxide springs, and unlike alkaline springs such as Vichy, Bilin, Fachingen, Obersalzbrunn, and Gieshübler, they have a high content of sodium chloride.
Still water is the most common guest at our tables. In fact, people with gastrointestinal tract issues should never drink sparkling water, as it irritates the biliary system.
Useful info on the minerals found in water
pH level alone is not enough to determine the quality of water: the correct mineral content is also essential. As regards chemical composition, water can be bicarbonate, chloride, sulfate or mixed.
Bicarbonate water contains more than 600 mg/L of bicarbonates (mineral salts), which is the ideal variant for serving. On its label, you can find elements such as sulfate bicarbonate, bicarbonate chloride, bicarbonate sodium, and others. This water is recommended for athletes, infants and persons living with cystitis. It lowers the acidity of gastric juice, and is also used to treat urolithiasis. However, gastritis is proven to be exacerbated when drinking this type of water.
Sulfate water is characterized by a high (more than 200 mg/L) content of sulfates and the natural salts of sulphuric acid. Typically, sulphate water is low in salts and carbon dioxide. It stimulates the gastrointestinal tract, helps restore the liver and gallbladder functions, and is recommended against issues of the biliary tract, chronic hepatitis, diabetes, and obesity. It flushes out toxins from the body and has a mild laxative effect. Sulfate water is not recommended for children and teenagers, as sulfates can interfere with the absorption of calcium.
Chloride water contains at least 200 mg/L of chlorides. It also helps against malfunctions of the digestive system. Combined with sodium, it regulates the work of intestines, the biliary tract, and the liver. It stimulates the metabolism, and improves secretions of the stomach, pancreas, and small intestine. Not recommended for individuals with increased blood pressure.
Mixed mineral water is a combination of mineral types (chloride-sulfate, bicarbonate-sulfate, etc.) to enhance their effect. It contains biologically active elements: over 10 mg/dm3 of iron, more than 7 mg/dm3 of arsenic, bromine — more than 25 mg/dm3, iodine — over 10 mg/dm3, lithium — more than 5 mg/dm3. It can also include traces of radioactive radium and radon.
When drinking water, remember that it does not contain all the essential micronutrients required, but at least it helps establish a solid base for a healthy life. Together with the minerals produced by the body, water provides just the right amount of elements to sustain us.
The most important minerals in mineral water are the ions Ca2+, Mg2+, Na+, K+, HCO3–, SO4– , Cl–. All of them can be found in most mineral waters. Other elements are present in insignificant amounts, so we will not cover them in this article.
Calcium (Ca). Maintains and strengthens bone tissue, muscle tissue, and heart muscles. Sustains the healthy functioning of the nervous system and normal blood clotting ability. One-year-old infants need just 600 mg per day, adolescents — about 1300 mg, adults — 1000 mg, and pregnant and lactating mothers — 1500 mg. All hard pressed cheeses contain this element in large amounts.
Magnesium (Mg). Human bodies contain about 20–28 g of magnesium. This is an essential element that participates in 300 different fermentation reactions. It helps break down fatty acids, and regulates heart rhythms. It is also a vital component of calcium and vitamin C metabolism, and helps reduce bad cholesterol. Water with an increased magnesium content is recommended for people who consume a lot of alcohol.
Adults need 350–500 mg of magnesium per day, and pregnant women — 400–500 mg. Athletes, overweight people and people with gastrointestinal tract ailments, diabetes, migraines, and fatigue should check up for magnesium deficiency. A high content of magnesium can also be found in wheat bran.
Sodium (Na). This chemical element maintains the body’s acid-base balance, regulates blood pressure, and maintains the osmotic pressure of intracellular fluid. If there is an excess of sodium in the extracellular fluid, water starts to move around in cells. When enough sodium has accumulated, water then leaks out of the cell. In other words, the amount of sodium in the body should always be regulated to maintain balance. It should act in such a way to retain fluid within the cell. The daily requirement for sodium is about 1,000–4,000 mg. The best way to consume sodium is with mineral water.
Potassium (K). Together with sodium, they form what might be considered an «intracellular pump.» The acidity level influences the content of potassium and sodium in a liquid. They help to nurture and cleanse cells. This means that potassium and sodium determine the acid-base balance, brain nutrition, regulate the work of the heart, and normalize blood pressure. The daily recommended requirement for potassium is about 3,000–4,000 mg. It is most often found in large amounts in gourds and beans.
Manganese (Mn). A very important micronutrient that influences the reproductive system and glands. It binds various body systems together, strengthens bone tissue and the circulatory system, and regulates the nervous system. It participates in the synthesis of insulin, but its content in human body is low, so any excess can be dangerous. There is a high concentration of manganese in tap water, and drinking it can lead to increased fatigue, and the suppression of glands. Its excess is especially harmful for women. Mineral water with an increased content of manganese should not be served at restaurants, as this can lead to unnecessary reactions caused in combination with alcohol and food. The highest content of manganese can be found in mushrooms and beets. There is a lot of manganese even in city air, caused by pollution and exhaust fumes. The right water has the ability to reduce these levels.
Iron (Fe). A crucial element in a number of biochemical reactions, including with hemoglobin, the transportation of respiratory gases, and the synthesis of DNA. The most important function of iron is its participation in various oxidation-reduction reactions, for example, respiration. The daily requirement for iron varies from 4 to 18 mg in children, 10 mg in adult men, 18 mg in adult women, 25 mg in pregnant women, and up to 33 mg in the second half of a pregnancy. The value for adult women increases by a factor of two during menstruation.
All natural water contains iron. The difference is in its concentration: from 0.5 to 50 mg/L. In addition, various iron-containing reagents can be found in drinking water, which leech in from pipes. Consult a specialist before regularly drinking water with an increased iron content. The recommended dosage of iron in drinking water is 0.3–0.5 g/L.
Chlorine (Cl). One of the essential elements of the human body. Chlorine maintains cellular pH, regulates the entire digestive system, and sustains bone tissue. Together with sodium and potassium ions, it also helps restore and maintain our osmotic balance. The daily requirement of chlorine in adults is about 800 mg.
The following information must be present on the label:
- Purpose of the water (table, medicinal, medicinal table)
- Type of water (still, sparkling)
- Name of water (Selters, etc.)
- Trademark, producer’s name and address
- Name and address of mineral well
- Other documents and information that indicate and prove the quality of water
- Storage conditions and expiration date
- Chemical composition and indications for medicinal use (for medicinal and medicinal table waters)
- Name of water group (bicarbonate-sodium, chloride-sulfate, etc.)
- Mineral content in % or g/L
- pH index