Fine Waters

A guide to bottled water | 0 Comments


By Dr. Michael Mascha

“My books are water; those of the great geniuses are wine. Everybody drinks water.”

—MARK TWAIN (1835–1910)

In the spring of 2002, my cardiologist gave me a choice: I could either continue to drink wine or continue to live. Since I had about five hundred bottles of wine stored in my wine cellar, I hesitated. Food and wine have always been an important part of my life. For many years, as an academic food anthropologist, my interest in food and wine was local and usually inexpensive — I was interested in food as a distinct expression of a particular people and region.

When my wife’s parents, who lived in a small Austrian village ten miles (16 km) from the Iron Curtain, killed a pig, they used every part of the animal. Preserved  correctly by smoking, curing, and other means, it would provide food for about six months. I’ll spare you the details of the dishes they made, but I will say it was some of the best food I ever ate. It was also some of the most honest, and it really got me interested in cooking.

In the later part of the eighties, my wife and I lived for about three years on a very small and remote island in the Fiji archipelago. Doing food-related research for my PhD, I encountered again the same dedication to food and the incredible knowledge of it developed by the people who had lived in that small ecosystem for about a hundred generations.

After thinking further about the choice my cardiologist had given me, I decided that eliminating wine from my life was probably the right choice. Pretty quickly I prepared my wine collection for long-term storage, in case I became terminally ill and could start drinking again. I immediately noticed the void created by not being able to enjoy or even handle wine in an epicurean setting at home or in restaurants. I missed not just the taste, but the rituals surrounding wine—the swirling, the smelling, the pouring, the conversation.

Though I never smoked, I know former smokers who tell me they miss the ritual and handling in a similar way. It was time to look for alternatives. Instead of wine, I was now drinking water with meals. After the humiliation of toasting with a heavy water tumbler in a group of Riedel Sommeliers stemware and the frustration of the same old “still or sparkling” choice in restaurants that had award-winning wine lists, I decided something needed to change.

What was lacking, I realized, was attention to bottled water in an epicurean context and an overall etiquette for bottled water. Americans have recently started  recognizing many food items, such as wine and olive oil, for their unique and cherished sources. Other items, like dark chocolate and salt, are currently undergoing that transition. But bottled water is still treated as a commodity lacking this terroir—the distinctive flavor determined by the local characteristics of the source. In many cases, bottled water is also held hostage to big brands with huge marketing powers.

But as with so many things, new worlds open up to those who look closely enough. By paying intelligent attention to what I was drinking, I discovered the world of fine bottled water. Water’s total absence of smell and of visual variety makes one think all bottled waters are uniform, without any distinguishing characteristics. But as I started drinking different waters during a single meal, clear differences emerged. Suddenly terms like “focused and short,” “broad and lingering,” “substantial,” or “light” seemed appropriate to describe the waters. With the help of the Internet, I was able to share my discoveries with the rest of the world.

And the world was ready. The FineWaters Web site ( quickly became a global destination for water connoisseurs by providing information on  the bottled waters, creating etiquette for them, and matching water with food. This book is meant to provide you with the basics of bottled water connoisseurship and etiquette. Inside you’ll learn about bottled water as a natural product with its own terroir. You’ll also learn to distinguish fine bottled waters from commodity waters that also happen to be sold in bottles. You’ll be able to select the appropriate bottled water to pair with your food and discover the principle of mouthfeel while exploring one hundred of the world’s best bottled waters.

Water is life—Enjoy it!

Fine Waters by Michael Mascha

Fine Waters introduces readers to the epicurean delights of water, sharing the ins and outs of the characteristics that provide various waters with their unique flavors, as well as recommended food pairings, stemware suggestions, and optimum serving temperatures for enjoying both still and sparkling waters. The book also provides tasting notes for more than 100 of the world's best bottled waters.

Produced in full color, with photographs throughout, Fine Waters is the first guide to this up-and-coming food trend.

Dr. Michael Mascha is a food anthropologist, culinary expert, and proprietor of Please go to the site to purchase the book and request an autograph.

Quirk Books
4-7/8 x 8-1/2 in; 192 pp
ISBN 1594741190

FINE WATERS A guide to bottled water

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