I went to a water Masterclass at the Omnivore festival in Sydney recently. It was of course sponsored by several companies, that aside, it was a perfectly interesting exercise to prove once and for all that both glassware and a cleansing glass of mineral enriched water can make a great difference to the enjoyment of both food and wine.
The case for terroir
The talk was hosted by Grant Van Every, host presenter and writer of Wine Lovers Guide to Australia SBS and local ambassador for Badoit French mineral water along with Matt Skinner wine writer and commentator, proof that this is both an important and valid subject. We start with terroir, the word that best invokes the entire characteristic of a local region and what the combined effect the environment (climate, geography, geology) has on the products produced there. This can apply to wine, chocolate, tomatoes, coffee, nuts, hops, tea, cheese and also water. The water we will try has a high mineral content affecting the taste of the water and the refreshing properties on the tongue. Badoit water, is a naturally carbonated mineral water from St Galmier central France. Auguste Badoit began bottling the water of Saint Galmier in 1838. Terroir plays a big part in the production of this water.
What’s in a glass?
This tasting starts with two wines in Plumm White A and Red A glasses ( above). We are instructed on correctly swirling the contents in the bowl of the glass to aerate allowing the aroma to escape . Then tasting each wine, we are asked to note what we like about each and how effortless it is to swirl wine around in a purpose designed glass. Grant and Matt discuss what some of the charcteristics of wine are for different grapes touching on the mineral characters of some wines such as a Chablis, often described as having a “minerally taste”. This is often one of the hardest things to describe in wine. We follow the wine with water.
Does water have a taste?
We are instructed to taste water from two different glasses .The first is an industrially made glass. This usually means glasses that are made from soda lime and blown into a machine with the use of an aluminium mould, often leaving a seem and that nasty thick edge. The other glass is Plumm stemless lead free crystal its very very fine and gorgeously clear. The water in the thick glass is acceptable, it’s cold and refreshing but doesn’t taste as sparkling as it looks. The water in the crystal glass is very mineral tasting and quite distinct with tiny beads of bubbles like champagne. It is hard to believe that it is the same water. Matt goes on to explain that the shape of the glass holds the biggest secret. The shape of the crystal glass is designed to deliver the drink to the middle of your tongue where you have more taste perception. The fatter flat sided glass dumps the water right onto the tip of your tongue just inside your mouth, where the taste receptors are different. Try this at home.
Matt talks about his job as a wine judge tasting anything from 70- 120 wines a day. This is very hard on your taste receptors and it requires a lot of refreshing so that you can continue for the day. The receptors on the tongue work better if they are cleansed while tasting. Grant likens it to having an “Etch A Sketch“, where each time you drink a strong minerally water your tongue is stripped and refreshed ready to start a fresh. We try this example by drinking some wine and then water and feeling the effects of how a beautifully effervescent water can clean the pallet. The additional properties of it’s high calcium and magnesium makes it a refreshingly “acidic” water that helps to strip the mouth clean. Australian and most other tap water is very soft with few minerals and no natural carbonation and considered “alkaline” and therefore not as refreshing. The pure mineral rich naturally carbonic acid filled water gives your tongue a spring clean.
Cleansing the pallet with mineral water
We are not done yet. It is time to test the theory with food and what better sticky tongue coating food to experiment with than cheese? It is easy to imagine that both cheese and wine would benefit from a little cleaning between mouthfuls. We try the cheese- Heidi Gruyere and Meridith Goat, if you are wondering, and then a sip of wine. Now we strip our pallets with the spikey minerally refreshing water and drink the wine again. It feels like going to the cleaners between bites and allows each flavour to unfold.
It’s been an informative Masterclass. I have certainly understood that great glassware enhances the taste of whatever you drink but I hadn’t understood exactly why. I certainly love to drink from a beautifully blown fine crystal glass, and at our house we fight over the remaining few we have in the cupboard. But I had no idea there was so much difference in mineral waters or how it actually affects your palate and why.
Good glasses do not have to cost the earth. Don’t be fooled by any big brand names into thinking that paying a huge sum of money for a single glass, that it will work any better than others. Buying a lovely crystal multipurpose wine glass from one of the “other” glass specialists like Plumm, will be more delightful because you won’t be scared to use them…all the time….every night when you have a glass of wine or a refreshing water.
Years ago I had a friend who used to carry a 1/2 dozen glasses around in the car so that when we went to a suburban Chinese or Thai restaurant and they gave us those thick tumblers or the tiny little round wine glasses we would just whip the glasses out of the car and that cheap bottle of wine would taste twice as good as it should have. It might be worth reconsidering. I wonder if I could keep some chilled Badoit in my handbag just so I can freshen up?
Badoit mineral water is available at Harris farm markets, Plumm glassware can be bought on line here. We tasted with Tar and Roses wines from Heathcote Victoria
The masterclass was sponsored by Badoit and Plumm glassware. I have no affiliation with either. I found this to be an interesting subject and hope you do too.