What A Water Sommelier Does And Why So Few Exist

Most of us, if not all of us, associate the term sommelier with a wine steward; someone who has in-depth knowledge about wine and often works at high-end establishments such as restaurants or tasting rooms. The word itself is rooted in the Latin word sagma aka packsaddle, which was a bag often filled with wine that would be carried on the backs of horses (via Binwise). Today, it takes a lot more work to be a sommelier than simply tossing a bunch of wine over the back of a pack mule. 

Instead, there is quite a lot of certification and training which goes into this profession, and more often than not a sommelier is expected to be able to smell and taste various bottles, differentiate them, recommend food pairings, and must be able to tell when their product has gone bad. While wine is the most common beverage in which sommeliers specialize, there are also tea sommeliers and water sommeliers, the latter being a profession that is very hard to come by.

Professional water tasters

Without a doubt, there is a difference in the taste of water, whether it comes from a tap, well, spring, or different water bottle brands. Sometimes the water will taste hard and saline, other times it can taste flat and smooth, and some bottled brands like Fiji are known for being crisp and pure. 

According to Vice, water sommeliers can taste the water and can tell the difference in minerals, flavor, and mouthfeel. It may seem odd that there are sommeliers out there studying water, of all things, but in truth, it is an exceedingly rare profession. So rare that Cook's Illustrated claims that there are only about 100 individuals in the world who are qualified to be water sommeliers. People train for years to be able to gain the title of Mineral Water Sommelier from the German Mineral Water Trade Association and currently, Martin Riese, known as TikTok's "personal water sommelier and advocate" is the only U.S. citizen to have earned a place among the elite community.

Deccan Herald interviewed water sommelier, Ganesh Iyer, who says that while wine sommeliers have existed for decades, the fine water industry only began to gain traction during the early 21st century. This and the fact that there are so few places that offer water sommelier courses, (thus a path to accreditation) make this the rare profession that it is.