How to Pair Mineral Water With WineWater
In wine pairing, mineral water can play an underestimated role in enriching the sensory experience.
Just like wine, each mineral water has its own flavour profile and taste, thanks to its own particular source, unique origin and circumstances that developed its flavour. And while the taste might be more understated compared to wine, pairing the two makes for a strong match in elevating the wine-tasting experience.
Some might even call wine and water pairing an art. The first step of which, requires recognising mineral water’s potential, by accepting that mineral water does in fact have a taste, however subtle.
As it happens, there’s quite a few choices when thinking about water and wine. Mineral water can either intensify the flavour of your wine, act as a palate cleanser, or simply complement, by having a neutral taste. Which highlights how taking a closer look at water and wine pairings can enhance your sensory experience, and even take center stage after seeing how your water choice can harmonise with your wine.
Have a look at our downloadable cheatsheet below for the next time you’re shopping.
Why mineral water?
There are two main reasons you should pair mineral water with wine: the physiological part and the sensory part. For example, if you’re pairing a full bodied wine with rich foods like cheese, mineral water can actually cleanse the palate after wine, especially if you choose a mineral water balanced and neutral in minerals and flavour.
Physiologically speaking, drinking mineral water between wines can make acidic wine less harmful – particularly helpful if you have a sensitivity to acids. And it keeps the body sufficiently hydrated, whilst also slowing down the impact of alcohol.
Matching with mouthfeel
The distinct way different mineral waters feel in the mouth is arguably the most important factor when pairing it with wine. And in decision-making, water’s texture mostly comes down to carbonation or non-carbonation.
For young reds and full-bodied wines, sparkling water can effectively match their strong astringency, high tannin and glycerin levels, as well as give a lighter body and viscosity to the drinking experience. The same goes for high alcohol wines.
Likewise, pairing full-bodied reds with still mineral water lets the complexity of the tannin-rich wine speak for itself.
For wines that are higher in sugar – light and fruity whites or rosé – still water with a low mineral content would be the neutral pairing that balances the flavour, giving focus to the fresh and fruitiness of the wine’s profile.
What’s more, when sipped alternatively, pairing mineral water and wine can even bring out the quality of both respectively, without overlapping the other.
“The structure of [sparkling] mineral water will harmonize with the structure of the red wine, creating a very pleasant taste in the mouth,”
– Giuseppe Vaccarini, water sommelier.
Matching with minerals
Just like wine, mineral water has its own ‘terroir’, influenced by the geology of its origin. The composition of minerals in one water can therefore completely differ from the next, in turn giving different flavour profiles for each. Which can make for an interesting sensory interaction with your wine.
For mineral waters rich in calcium or iron (>1,500mg/l), its sweeter taste will be very distinct. So when it’s paired with a more acidic wine like a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir, the acidity gets balanced out.
By contrast, mineral waters high in calcium could also have a bittering or roughening effect, when paired with wines high in tannins such as a Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon. And waters with a full mineral load can neutralize or change the balance of an aromatic wine, depending on the effect you would want.
For those waters with a lower mineral content (50-250mg/l), they will have a clean, soft and neutral taste, making it perfect for light white wines.
Matching with acidity/pH balance
As all wine lies on the acidic side when it comes to its pH level, it’s worth understanding how mineral water comes into play. If you want to neutralize the acidity of your wine, choosing a mineral water high in hydrogen carbonate would be effective, as hydrogen carbonate is responsible for maintaining the balance of acids in the body.
Water is itself, however, influenced by its own pH factor, so it can either taste sour, sweet or bitter. Which you can also adjust according to the wine you choose and taste you prefer, whether you want to contrast or complement your sweet or acidic wine.
Raising a glass with water
Choosing the pairing primarily comes down to understanding mineral water’s important role at the dinner table.
As water sommelier and Mitte CMO Karan emphasises, “What’s interesting is, we spend so much time choosing the right wine for its character, but we rarely think about how important the water we pair with it is. And for exactly the same reasons: flavour profile. Minerality, pH and effervescence all give water its own character and that can make or break the character of the accompanying wine.”
A cheatsheet for the next time you’re shopping for wine and mineral water…
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