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Judging water has a style all its own

February 24, 2003|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - They take the waters seriously in Berkeley Springs.

In fact, rating the flavor of water from various locales has become a fine art for judges of the annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting.

Water Master Arthur Von Wiesenberger, a water expert from Santa Barbara, Calif., put this year's judges through their paces during a training session Saturday afternoon at the Coolfont Resort.

"Water really shouldn't have any taste, should it?" mused Bill Crockett, a Marshall University professor pressed into service when scheduled judges canceled.

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These judges were fortunate - preliminary judging Thursday had eliminated several not-so-tasty samples, including one Von Wiesenberger said "tasted like wet dog," in one judge's opinion.

Categories for this year's competition included municipal water, purified drinking water, bottled non-carbonated water and bottled sparkling water.

Entries came from as close as Berkeley Springs, and from as far away as New Zealand, Modavia, Bosnia and Belize.

Judges would be ranking entries by several criteria, Von Wiesenberger said, beginning with appearance.

"There really shouldn't be any - water should be transparent," Von Wiesenberger said.

That may seem obvious, but Von Wiesenberger said iron and organic matter at the water's source can cause discoloration or cloudiness. And there should be no odor - he instructed judges to take "three short sniffs" of each sample to determine whether there was one.

"What you really want to smell is nothing," Von Wiesenberger said.

Flavor, aftertaste, even how the water feels inside the mouth would all be ranked as well, he said.

Each judge was issued four samples for a test run before actual judging began.

Judge Karen Feld, Washington editor for the Delta Shuttle Sheet, made her choices and then offered sips to her miniature poodle, Amaretto, who was getting a little restless in her lap.

"He always drinks out of my glass," she explained.

In the end, eight of the 12 judges - and Amaretto - agreed that the third sample, taken from Coolfont's own tap, was the best of the four in the test run.

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