The High-Water Mark: Sommelier Ciro Fontanesi on the importance of water

15 Jul 2021

ASI: For many people, the idea of a water sommelier is a difficult one to imagine. What exactly is a water sommelier and why is it important?

Ciro: I think we don’t need to label a figure in a restaurant as a “water sommelier” because in the professional profile of a “sommelier” is important to underline not only the importance of the wine (as a lot of people think) but a sommelier is someone that has skills about all the beverages including water. But not only that. A sommelier is involved also in food for the beverages pairing. In this view is important for a sommelier to understand the target and the project of a restaurant.


ASI: How do different waters affect the flavor of both wine and food?

Ciro: The different waters represent a bridge between food and wine and the “keystone of an arch”. You have to know what to eat, then what to drink and at the end you have to choose the correct water.  The water interacsts both with wine and food.


ASI: You started life as an engineer. What lessons from your engineer training did you take with you into your sommelier training?

Ciro: As I always said, ‘being an engineer give me a square view. Being a sommelier helped me to smooth the angles.’


ASI: Does the shape and size of a glass influence water in the way it does wine? Can you provide a few basic guidelines?

Ciro: It is very difficult to summarize in few words a huge concept like that. We can say that, as for wine, the shape influences the approach of a liquid and consequently some characteristic such as as acidity, saltiness, fizziness etc. of the water.

For example, Acqua Panna needs a wider shape of glass to enhance the smoothness and SanPellegrino needs a narrower shape to enhance the fizziness and other characteristic.

ASI: What is considered the best water in a wine tasting? Is it better to taste wines with carbonated water or still? Why?

Ciro: The best water in a wine tasting is the water that helps you to maintain the performance of the taste from the first glass to the last one, avoiding palatal fatigue.

It depends from the wines that you have to taste. Some wines needs still water and other carbonated water. Some sweet wines, for examples, con be paired with both. The final result of the taste is different: from a sweet ending to a balanced one.