22nd annual Berkeley Springs Water Tasting this weekend
Entries continue to pour in from around the world for the 22nd annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting on Saturday, February 25 at the Country Inn.
Among nearly 100 entries are former gold medal winners from Los Angeles, Desert Hot Springs and Daytona Beach as well as a long list of Ohio water systems hoping to duplicate their state's success in past years.
International waters include Bosnia, Japan, Belgium, Canada and China among others as well as a first-ever entry from Bulgaria.
"Over the life of the water tasting, we've had entrants from 46 states and 43 countries representing every continent but Africa," said Jill Klein Rone, producer of the event. “This year we’re also expecting an abundance of European sparkling waters from Nestle’s.”
The list of state entries both impressed and dismayed Jeanne Mozier, a founder of the event. “I was shocked to discover that four states in the country had never entered either the municipal or bottled water categories of the competition. We've had water from Tasmania but not Rhode Island," she complained, listing the other missing waters as well. “There’s been water from Ecuador but not Oklahoma; from Finland but not North Dakota; from South Korea but not South Dakota. I want to know what’s wrong with those four states.”
The Berkeley Springs International is the largest and longest running water tasting competition in the world.
Tasting of municipal waters, followed by purified drinking water, begins at 2:30 p.m. Bottled waters, both still and sparkling, are tasted at 6:30 p.m. Winners in all categories will be announced at a public awards reception at 8 p.m.
Judges are trained to rate the waters on attributes of taste, smell and clarity by founding watermaster and internationally recognized water expert, Arthur von Wiesenberger.
Local spring water is well represented at the event. “With all the different companies bottling water from the springs, Berkeley Springs is entered multiple times,” said Mozier.
A distinguished panel of media judges determine the official winners, but there is a role for the public. All day Saturday, they taste water along with the judges. Most importantly, the public votes 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 admits the event is a little tame. "The real excitement for the audience comes at the conclusion," she explained. "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. It takes about nine hours to set up the display and less than 10 minutes for it all to disappear."
Judges for the 2012 Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting include freelance journalists and representatives from all three television networks as well as WV Public Radio.
To address various issues related to water, the event includes a public seminar on Friday afternoon from 1-5 p.m. with six water experts. The 2012 seminar, "Water: Beneath the Surface and Around the Globe" features marketing legend, James M. Stevens, who launched Perrier in the 1970s. He was the COO of Coca Cola Enterprises, President of Suntory Water Group (Crystal) as well as Danone Water Group (Evian, Volvic).
Maryland’s work on the Chesapeake Bay initiative and sound infused water are among other topics. Von Wiesenberger and Michael Cervin’s odyssey to the world’s highest bottling plant in the Chinese mountains is also on the seminar schedule.
There are several expansions in this year’s event. Two new awards are being presented Saturday evening, a lifetime achievement award to James M. Stevens and the Watermaster's Golden Award of Excellence which is announced at the event.
The event program has been expanded to include a 22 year timeline of the event.
The water tasting weekend begins on Thursday, February 23, with preliminary tastings at the Country Inn that are free and open to the public.
Special events and activities continue everywhere in Morgan County through Sunday, February 26 including a tasting at Tari's Cafe on Friday night. Spa, shopping and lodging specials are also abundant.
The event is produced by Travel Berkeley Springs with funding support from the West Virginia Legislature and local hotel/motel taxes.
For more information, call 800-447-8797.