21st water tasting event floods town this weekend
Entries have poured in from around the world for the 21st annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting on Saturday, February 26 at the Country Inn.
Among the more than 100 entries are former gold medal winners from Los Angeles, Atlantic City and Desert Hot Springs, California as well as a long list of Ohio water systems hoping to duplicate the state’s success in past years. International waters include Korea, Tasmania, Bosnia and Japan.
“Texas rainwater is the big surprise this year,” said Jill Klein Rone, longtime producer of the event. “We even have a rainwater entry in the carbonated category.”
The Berkeley Springs International is the largest and longest running water tasting competition in the world.
“We consider it the Academy Awards of Water,” said Klein Rone. “Instead of gold statuettes, we present fused-glass slump bowls created by Amingo Glass of nearby Hedgesville.”
Tasting of municipal waters, followed by purified drinking water, will begin at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. Bottled waters, both still and sparkling, will be tasted at 6:30 p.m. Winners in all categories are announced at a public awards reception at 8 p.m.
“The impact of winning this event is extraordinary for a bottler,” said Jeanne Mozier, an event founder.
After winning the 2008 gold medal for best tasting bottled non-carbonated water, Martinsburg’s Tumai water company saw sales grow overnight.
Berkeley Springs water is in abundance at the events. “With all the different companies bottling water from the springs, Berkeley Springs is entered multiple times, and that doesn’t include Town of Bath in the municipal category,” Mozier said. This year, Panorama at the Peak is entering their own water.
A panel of media judges determine the winners, but there is a role for the public. All day Saturday, people can taste water along with the judges. Most importantly, the public votes for the People’s Choice award for best packaging.
“How the product looks has become ever more important as the bottled water industry continues to grow,” said Mozier. “There are now more than 600 brands of bottled water.”
Mozier admitted the event is a little tame, but added: “The real excitement for the audience comes at the conclusion. Once the awards are presented, we stage the now world-famous ‘water rush’ where folks scramble to take home some of the hundreds of bottles of water that have been used for display.”
The “water rush” was once highlighted by cable television’s Games Across America.
One change this year is that former judge Michael Cervin will be acting watermaster. Longtime expert Arthur von Wiesenberger had other commitments.
Cervin, however, has “great taste buds,” said Klein Rone. “He’s ready to prepare our media judges for the challenge of evaluating a product where tastelessness is the most sought after quality.”
Cervin is a prolific writer on water issues, travel and food.
The unique event, dubbed the “granddaddy of water tastings” by von Wiesenberger, is produced by Travel Berkeley Springs. Open to the public, tickets are available from local lodging places or at the visitors center.
Judges for the 2011 Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting include freelance journalists and representatives from a variety of media outlets including NBC-TV. The international press is represented by Canadian journalist Margaret Swaine.
The water tasting weekend begins on Thursday, February 25, with preliminary tastings at the Country Inn that are free and open to the public.
Special events and activities continue through Sunday, February 28 including wine tastings, sales, and sales and dining, spa and lodging specials.
For tickets or more information, call 1-800-447-8797 or check the Travel Berkeley Springs website.