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We’ve all heard about wine sommeliers. Any respected winery or restaurant employs them.

Many know what beer sommeliers are, too. But have you ever heard of water sommeliers?

As intriguing as it may seem, this is a real job – and an interesting one, as Claudia Benea, the first water sommelier in Romania, tells us.

Aur’a Water Sommelier – Claudia Benea 1.

How did you become a water sommelier?

Nothing is accidental in life. Everything happens for a reason and somehow at the right time.

Halfway through life, I happened to receive a challenge in a completely new sector for me at the time, which became the most extraordinary adventure of my life.

It was the spring of 2017 when I was offered the opportunity to become the representative of a unique water company, Aur’a.

It was a sort of love at first sight and I took the step without hesitation, swapping professional spheres completely – from legal to food and beverage.

Several factors influenced my choice. On the one hand, the story of water, a new world, a particular industry and extraordinary people. On the other hand, my open, curious, adventurous nature.

Admittedly, it was like a reset.

My new professional journey involved water studies, hours of courses, and reading countless books.

That’s how I first learned about water sommeliers such as Martin Riese, perhaps the most famous water sommelier in the world, as well as other people who share this special passion.

I began my own research, took some surveys in the hospitality industry, and came to the conclusion that in Romania, there is little knownledge about water, despite it being such an essential element for our existence.

Moreover, I also found that Romania had no water sommelier and that’s what made me decide this was the way to go.

Subsequently, I attended a sommelier course (FNDA), obtained my Aqua Sommelier diploma and became the first woman in Romania to work as a water sommelier besides becoming part of Aur’a water team.

What does being a water sommelier mean?

Thirst is universal. When you are thirsty, a simple sip of water sends you on a journey; it opens up a story.

Simply put, a water sommelier is a specialist in mineral waters who has acquired, through study and practice, the ability to recognize and distinguish the various aromas as well as the mineral properties of water.

An Aqua Sommelier can recommend the right pairing between food and mineral water, and also between water and wine or other beverages.

As it happens with wine, a good pairing of the water with a dish can enhance the flavor of the food, no matter how simple or sophisticated it may be.

It is also amazing how taste perceptions can change significantly for wines and spirits in combination with the right water. Moreover, that’s where the sommelier steps in, recognizing the identity of the water and suggesting the best pairings.

What are the similarities and differences with wine sommeliers?

Like wine, mineral water is closely linked to the territory of origin. Its taste can vary almost as much as the taste of wine.

Various wines can complement different dishes. Likewise, the right still or sparkling water can add flavor when paired with the right meals.

It’s easier with wine. The aromas of fruits or spices are specific and you can quickly identify them through smell. On the other hand, tasting water can be tiring.

The sommelier must recognize the water and classify it on much more intuitive elements, such as the smell of earth, stone, forest and so on.

However, each water has a unique imprint and taste, with exciting shades. Tasting is about sense, and both wine and water sommeliers educate their senses by tasting as many varieties as possible.

How widespread is this profession worldwide?

In my opinion, it is not as widespread as it should be, especially since water is the most consumed beverage globally.

Some countries brag with a water culture, with specialists and specialized water stores, as well as international competitions. Romania certainly doesn’t fall into this category.

Our country has exceptional quality water, but a less-educated group of consumers. People ordering water in a restaurant usually only make one distinction – either still or sparkling.

Aur’a Water Sommelier – Claudia Benea 2.
Romania is home to 60 percent of Europe’s mineral springs; it is a country with extraordinary resources and enormous potential.

I think the role of aqua sommeliers will increase in the following years as the health benefits of hydration and the part of premium water in the luxury market will expand.

What to consider when choosing a particular water?

Water is an essential beverage. Yet, most people think that water is just water, that it has no smell or taste.

Drinking water is not just about quenching thirst, though. Water incorporates a variety of flavors given by its minerals and other precious compounds.

It is also important to remember that water must be suitable for one’s health. For example, water with a high concentration of salt is not ideal for people suffering from high blood pressure or kidney diseases.

You must also pay attention to how you balance a meal.
Alkaline water pairs perfectly with hearty meals, enhancing the aroma of food and drinks. Highly mineralized water is more appropriate for vegetarian or vegan diets.

Unlike plain spring water, still or carbonated mineral water originating from an underground aquifer deposit captures its qualities deep underground.

This ensures its stability, temperature and constant content of mineral salts, regardless of the weather conditions on the surface.

This type of water brings an important contribution of natural minerals to your body. People need to learn to read the label before choosing their water.

Which is your favorite from all the waters in the world?

There are over 5,000 different water brands on this planet and they all taste differently. From very smooth notes, almost silky and sweet, to very complex, slightly bitter and salty depending on the pH and amount of minerals.

Over the years, I tasted many types of water, and don’t necessarily have a favorite.

One I particularly like is Iskilde, water that comes from an artesian spring in a conservation area in Denmark. It isn’t carbonated, but it has an exceptionally high content of oxygen because it passes through an air bubble in the ground on its way to the spring.

Aur’a Water Sommelier – Claudia Benea 3.
When the water is poured, the oxygen dissipates as the pressure in the bottle drops, causing the formation of bubbles that turn the water cloudy when the glass is shaken — a complex and spectacular chemical process.

But Aur’a remains my favorite water for its uniqueness, for its refined taste and because it’s natural, not to mention it has shown me that there are new and unexpected horizons.

It is fascinating what happens in the glass immediately after opening a bottle.

What is the best shape for a water glass?

Regardless of the beverage, it is necessary that the glass in which it is served can shape the aroma and all other qualities of the drink in the best possible way.

I use wine glasses to taste water. The wine glass is designed to enhance the taste profile of a wine, so there is nothing wrong with using the same glass for water too.

What is the purest water in the world? Glacier water or the industrially purified and bottled water?

Glacier water collected from precipitation is considered the purest. This water is collected and melted under strict purity guidelines to preserve its natural qualities.

The result is water practically untouched by mankind, with little to no traces of minerals.

Table water can come from deep wells, or it can be microbiologically purified. Then, there are deionized waters, distilled waters, water purified through reverse osmosis; all these are processed, mineral-free waters.

Chlorine remains the main solution for the sanitation of municipal water, which has little to no minerals.

On the other hand, mineral and spring waters from natural sources are internationally acclaimed for their mineral composition as the water runs through the ground. These are Mother Nature’s healthy, valuable minerals.

Nutritionists argue that it is not good to drink water during a meal. How else can you do a water pairing?

Opinions are divided between nutritionists and doctors. Some argue that you can drink water during meals, others are totally against it.

After thorough research on the subject, I found that from a digestive point of view, the amount of water ingested during a meal does not influence the concentration of digestive juices.

Aur’a Water Sommelier – Claudia Benea 4.
I recommend drinking water between the dishes because it makes you feel full faster, and at the same time, it cleanses the palate from one meal to the other. In this way, you can enjoy each flavor more.

What is the most exciting part of the aqua sommelier profession, and which is the least pleasant?

Water can be salty, sweet, smooth, fruity, sophisticated, metallic.

The fascinating part of being an aqua sommelier is the ability to pair different types of water with the right dishes, and also with other drinks – a pairing that is always a challenge.

The taste of water has a significant impact on everything you have on the plate or in other glasses.

The least pleasant part is that people hardly understand the role of an aqua sommelier.

Most customers are skeptical; they don’t understand the role of water for health and are not concerned about discovering new things, such as finding out how to pair water with food and other beverages.

However, once you manage to capture their attention, they are fascinated by the fact that a drink with no color or smell can have such a distinctive taste, a thing to which they never paid attention before.

How is water classified?

Like I said before, many people believe that there are only two types of water, sparkling or still. However, water has a very complex classification.

To avoid confusion, I can tell you that all waters are mineral. The main difference is the content of carbon dioxide.

In Romania, water can only be called mineral if its source is registered with the National Agency for Mineral Resources (ANRM). If the source isn’t registered, the producers cannot use the word mineral in the name, so they have to classify it either as spring or table water.

Returning to the content, non-carbonated mineral water – known as still water – doesn’t contain more carbon dioxide than needed to dissolve the carbonated hydrogen salts in its composition in its natural state, and in all cases, no more than 250mg/L.

Carbonated mineral water has naturally occurring carbonation. Artificially carbonated water contains a certain amount of carbon dioxide that has been artificially added to the water.

This is a brief overview. There is much more to be said; however, people need to understand that each water has its mineral richness given by the soil through which the water flows.

The choice a consumer makes is clearly influenced by taste, health, financial possibilities, and education. Or so it should.

Aur’a Water Sommelier – Claudia Benea 5.
Many even try to make a comparison between water and wine, but this is impossible for me. The two beverages come from two different worlds. I like wine, but water will always be first for me.

After all, it is our source of life, a source we shouldn’t waste but honor and recognize.

We’ve all heard about wine sommeliers. Any respected winery or restaurant employs them.

Many know what beer sommeliers are, too. But have you ever heard of water sommeliers?

As intriguing as it may seem, this is a real job – and an interesting one, as Claudia Benea, the first water sommelier in Romania, tells us.

Aur’a Water Sommelier – Claudia Benea 1.

How did you become a water sommelier?

Nothing is accidental in life. Everything happens for a reason and somehow at the right time.

Halfway through life, I happened to receive a challenge in a completely new sector for me at the time, but that became the most extraordinary adventure of my life.

It was the spring of 2017 when I was offered the opportunity to become the representative of a unique water company, Aur’a.

It was a sort of love at first sight, and I took the step without hesitation, swapping professional spheres completely – from legal to food and beverage.

Several factors influenced my choice. On the one hand, the story of water, a new world, a particular industry, and extraordinary people. On the other hand, my open, curious, adventurous nature.

Admittedly, it was like a reset.

My new professional journey involved water studies, hours of courses, and reading countless books.
That’s how I first learned about water sommeliers such as Martin Riese, perhaps the most famous water sommelier in the world, as well as other people who share this special passion.

I began to document myself, took some surveys in the hospitality industry, and came to the conclusion that in Romania, there is so little known about water, despite it being such an essential element for our existence.

Moreover, I also found that Romania had no water sommelier and that’s what made me decide this was the way to go.

Subsequently, I attended a sommelier course (FNDA), obtained my Aqua Sommelier diploma and became the first woman in Romania to work as a water sommelier besides becoming part of Aur’a water team.

What does being a water sommelier mean?

Thirst is universal. When you are thirsty, a simple sip of water sends you on a journey; it opens up a story.

Simply put, a water sommelier is a specialist in mineral waters who has acquired, through study and practice, the ability to recognize and distinguish the various aromas as well as the mineral properties of water.

An Aqua Sommelier can recommend the right pairing between food and mineral water, and also between water and wine or other beverages.

As it happens with wine, a good pairing of the water with a dish can enhance the flavor of the food, no matter how simple or sophisticated it may be.

It is also amazing how taste perceptions can change significantly for wines and spirits in combination with the right water. Moreover, that’s where the sommelier steps in, recognizing the identity of the water and suggesting the best pairings.

What are the similarities and differences with wine sommeliers?

Like wine, mineral water is closely linked to the territory of origin. Its taste can vary almost as much as the taste of wine.

Various wines can complement different dishes. Likewise, the right still or sparkling water can add flavor when paired with the right meals.

It’s easier with wine. The aromas of fruits or spices are specific and you can quickly identify them through smell. On the other hand, tasting water can be tiring.

The sommelier must recognize the water and classify it on much more intuitive elements, such as the smell of earth, stone, forest and so on.

However, each water has a unique imprint and taste, with exciting shades. Tasting is about sense, and both wine and water sommeliers educate their senses by tasting as many varieties as possible.

How widespread is this profession worldwide?

In my opinion, it is not as widespread as it should be, especially since water is the most consumed beverage globally.

Some countries brag with a water culture, with specialists and specialized water stores, as well as international competitions. Romania certainly doesn’t fall into this category.

Our country has exceptional quality water, but a less-educated group of consumers. People ordering water in a restaurant usually only make one distinction – either still or sparkling.

Aur’a Water Sommelier – Claudia Benea 2.
Romania is home to 60 percent of Europe’s mineral springs; it is a country with extraordinary resources and enormous potential.

I think the role of aqua sommeliers will increase in the following years as the health benefits of hydration and the part of premium water in the luxury market will expand.

What to consider when choosing a particular water?

Water is an essential beverage. Yet, most people think that water is just water, that it has no smell or taste.

Drinking water is not just about quenching thirst, though. Water incorporates a variety of flavors given by its minerals and other precious compounds.

It is also important to remember that water must be suitable for one’s health. For example, water with a high concentration of salt is not ideal for people suffering from high blood pressure or kidney diseases.

You must also pay attention to how you balance a meal.
Alkaline water pairs perfectly with hearty meals, enhancing the aroma of food and drinks. Highly mineralized water is more appropriate for vegetarian or vegan diets.

Unlike plain spring water, still or carbonated mineral water originating from an underground aquifer deposit captures its qualities deep underground.

This ensures its stability, temperature and constant content of mineral salts, regardless of the weather conditions on the surface.

This type of water brings an important contribution of natural minerals to your body. People need to learn to read the label before choosing their water.

Which is your favorite from all the waters in the world?

There are over 5,000 different water brands on this planet and they all taste differently. From very smooth notes, almost silky and sweet, to very complex, slightly bitter and salty depending on the pH and amount of minerals.

Over the years, I tasted many types of water, and don’t necessarily have a favorite.

One I particularly like is Iskilde, water that comes from an artesian spring in a conservation area in Denmark. It isn’t carbonated, but it has an exceptionally high content of oxygen because it passes through an air bubble in the ground on its way to the spring.

Aur’a Water Sommelier – Claudia Benea 3.
When the water is poured, the oxygen dissipates as the pressure in the bottle drops, causing the formation of bubbles that turn the water cloudy when the glass is shaken — a complex and spectacular chemical process.

But Aur’a remains my favorite water for its uniqueness, for its refined taste and because it’s natural, not to mention it has shown me that there are new and unexpected horizons.

It is fascinating what happens in the glass immediately after opening a bottle.

What is the best shape for a water glass?

Regardless of the beverage, it is necessary that the glass in which it is served can shape the aroma and all other qualities of the drink in the best possible way.

I use wine glasses to taste water. The wine glass is designed to enhance the taste profile of a wine, so there is nothing wrong with using the same glass for water too.

What is the purest water in the world? Glacier water or the industrially purified and bottled water?

Glacier water collected from precipitation is considered the purest. This water is collected and melted under strict purity guidelines to preserve its natural qualities.

The result is water practically untouched by mankind, with little to no traces of minerals.

Table water can come from deep wells, or it can be microbiologically purified. Then, there are deionized waters, distilled waters, water purified through reverse osmosis; all these are processed, mineral-free waters.

Chlorine remains the main solution for the sanitation of municipal water, which has little to no minerals.

On the other hand, mineral and spring waters from natural sources are internationally acclaimed for their mineral composition as the water runs through the ground. These are Mother Nature’s healthy, valuable minerals.

Nutritionists argue that it is not good to drink water during a meal. How else can you do a water pairing?

Opinions are divided between nutritionists and doctors. Some argue that you can drink water during meals, others are totally against it.

After thorough research on the subject, I found that from a digestive point of view, the amount of water ingested during a meal does not influence the concentration of digestive juices.

Aur’a Water Sommelier – Claudia Benea 4.
I recommend drinking water between the dishes because it makes you feel full faster, and at the same time, it cleanses the palate from one meal to the other. In this way, you can enjoy each flavor more.

What is the most exciting part of the aqua sommelier profession, and which is the least pleasant?

Water can be salty, sweet, smooth, fruity, sophisticated, metallic.

The fascinating part of being an aqua sommelier is the ability to pair different types of water with the right dishes, and also with other drinks – a pairing that is always a challenge.

The taste of water has a significant impact on everything you have on the plate or in other glasses.

The least pleasant part is that people hardly understand the role of an aqua sommelier.

Most customers are skeptical; they don’t understand the role of water for health and are not concerned about discovering new things, such as finding out how to pair water with food and other beverages.

However, once you manage to capture their attention, they are fascinated by the fact that a drink with no color or smell can have such a distinctive taste, a thing to which they never paid attention before.

How is water classified?

Like I said before, many people believe that there are only two types of water, sparkling or still. However, water has a very complex classification.

To avoid confusion, I can tell you that all waters are mineral. The main difference is the content of carbon dioxide.

In Romania, water can only be called mineral if its source is registered with the National Agency for Mineral Resources (ANRM). If the source isn’t registered, the producers cannot use the word mineral in the name, so they have to classify it either as spring or table water.

Returning to the content, non-carbonated mineral water – known as still water – doesn’t contain more carbon dioxide than needed to dissolve the carbonated hydrogen salts in its composition in its natural state, and in all cases, no more than 250mg/L.

Carbonated mineral water has naturally occurring carbonation. Artificially carbonated water contains a certain amount of carbon dioxide that has been artificially added to the water.

This is a brief overview. There is much more to be said; however, people need to understand that each water has its mineral richness given by the soil through which the water flows.

The choice a consumer makes is clearly influenced by taste, health, financial possibilities, and education. Or so it should.

Aur’a Water Sommelier – Claudia Benea 5.
Many even try to make a comparison between water and wine, but this is impossible for me. The two beverages come from two different worlds. I like wine, but water will always be first for me.

After all, it is our source of life, a source we shouldn’t waste but honor and recognize.