The 29th Annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting will bring in nearly one hundred waters from across the country and around the globe this Saturday, February 23 at The Country Inn. The festival is the largest and longest running water tasting competition in the world.
On Saturday, a panel of trained judges begin tasting municipal waters, followed by purified drinking water, 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.
Water from the West Indies is entered for the first time this year, joining water entries from as far away as Greece, Australia and Taiwan.
Over the event’s 29 years, more than 700 distinct waters have entered the competition from all over the United States and from every continent but Antarctica.
“The impact of winning this event is extraordinary for a bottler,” said Jeanne Mozier, one of the event founders.
Mozier said the municipal competition looks like a battle of the titans this year, with several gold medal winning waters returning to defend their title as best tasting water in the world.
All day Saturday, the public tastes 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.”
The newest look entered is water in recyclable aluminum cans.
A second People’s Choice event is in its second year: Best Flavor Essence Sparkling Water.
Saturday’s award ceremony ends with a “water rush,” where the public can take home some of the hundreds of bottles of water that have been used for display.
Watermaster Arthur von Wiesenberger, noted expert and author from Santa Barbara, Calif., trains the media judges and directs the challenge of evaluating a product where tastelessness is the most sought after quality.
Handcrafted glass water drops, created by West Virginia’s Appalachian Glass, are presented as awards in the municipal, bottled and still water categories as well as for purified drinking water and best packaging design.
Judges in 2019 include a Guardian columnist as well as journalists whose work appears in the New York Times, Washingtonian Magazine and Mother Earth News among others, and in podcasts and blogs.
Documentary filmmaker Adam Ridley has chosen to make this year’s water tasting his newest project. Following his Netflix series “Last Chance U,” Ridley confessed he was looking for something fun to film.
Free water seminars Friday
“Water: Beneath the Surface and Around the Globe,” the event’s seminar, addresses protecting and providing water on Friday, February 22 starting at 1 p.m. Speakers include John Harris, Manager of Operations, Wannon Water, Victoria, Australia; Kenneth J. Guoin, Founder, Ophora Water Technologies; Kate Lehman, President, Warm Springs Watershed Association; Robert (Bob) J. Andryszak, PE, Director, Wastewater, RK&K; and Henry R. Hidell, III, founder of Hidell International.
Joe Doss, President & CEO of the International Bottled Water Association is also a presenter at the seminar. Doss is the 2019 International Water Tasting Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.
WaterExpo Guangzhou 2019 and Guangzhou Informa Yi Fan Exhibitions Co., Ltd of China is the presenting sponsor of the Lifetime Achievement Award. “We are always thrilled when our global reach is reinforced by major international sponsors,” said Mozier, “and we welcome China to our line-up.”
The water tasting weekend begins on Thursday, February 21, with preliminary tastings at The Country Inn that are free and open to the public.
The seminar and Saturday’s award ceremony are live streamed. Special events and activities continue everywhere in Berkeley Springs through Sunday, February 24. For more information, call 800-447-8797 or check the Travel Berkeley Springs website.