“Water has a lot more to offer to the culinary table than just quenching thirst”

foodService India|January - February-2020

“Water has a lot more to offer to the culinary table than just quenching thirst”
Ganesh Iyer’s resume says he is India’s first and only Water Sommelier. FoodService India caught up with Iyer who is also the Director, Operations - India & Indian Subcontinent, VEEN, a Finnish company that was established in 2006 and which offers premium spring water and mineral water ranges to 17 countries across Europe, the Middle East and Asia including India and China. “Water sommelier as a profession was unheard of until I became India’s first and only water sommelier,” says Iyer in a chat with Sanjay Kumar in which he demystifies his job of being a water sommelier and what it takes to make a mark in this profession.

Water Sommelier! Sounds like a fancy job description. Tell us what it is to be a water sommelier. What are the similarities and the differences between a water sommelier and a wine sommelier?

A water sommelier is someone who is able to detect, recognize and differentiate different types of natural mineral waters based on their different natural characteristics such as minerality, carbonation, vintage, hardness, orientation, virginality, hardness, and various other elements. A water sommelier has extensively trained on the subject and basis his/her expertise can suggest on how to pair different waters with different cuisines, wines & spirits in the culinary environment.

The similarities between a water sommelier and wine sommelier are in terms of the nuances of sight, smell and taste and how these traits help to identify different flavors and off flavors, as in wine.

Wine Sommeliers have dominated the fine dining space by recommending the perfect wine pairings to go with the food. Water sommeliers are doing the same except with natural mineral water sourced from, say, deep Artic regions to mountain springs from Slovenia to the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan.

How did you come to become a water sommelier?

I have spent close to over two decades in the field of alcobev and non-alcobev during which I have had the distinction of being part of the teams that launched six different brands of natural mineral waters and sparkling waters in India from the 90s onwards. VEEN is the 7th water brand I have come to be associated with. With all this experience, I thought it was an opportune time to validate these learnings and I went to the DOEMENS Academy in Munich, Germany, which is rated as one of the best academies to get myself accredited as a Water Sommelier.

As a water sommelier, what is it that gives you the greatest professional satisfaction?

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January - February-2020