A glass of tap water has been rated superior to mineral waters costing thousands of times as much in a Decanter blind tasting.
Decanter’s panel – made up of Masters of Wine, top sommeliers and some of the most experienced palates in the country – voted the tap water supplied by utility company Thames Water third equal in a tasting of 24 waters.
The top-scoring water was Waiwera, from New Zealand, which sells for £9 a litre at Claridges. This was followed by Vittel, £0.39 in Tescos.
Joint third was Thames Water’s standard tap water, drawn from a kitchen tap in South Kensington, London, costing less than one penny (£0.09918) per litre.
The water is pumped from the Thames and treated at one of four water treatment works to the west of London, namely Ashford Common, Hampton, Kempton Park and Walton.
Ranked alongside Thames Water was Iskilde, 900 times more expensive at £9 per litre at Claridges. It comes from an aquifer in Denmark covered by alternating layers of quartz-sand and hard clay.
Anthony Rose, wine critic of the Independent newspaper, nominated the tap water as the one he thought was the most expensive. Terry Threlfall, sommelier at Michelin-starred Chez Bruce in London, picked it as his favourite, giving it 19 points out of 20.
In 18th place was the most expensive water was the 420 Volcanic, at £50 a litre at Claridges is 5000 as expensive as tap water).
Bling H2O, from California, at £40 a litre the second most expensive, came 22nd out of 24. Its bottle is encrusted with Swarovski gems.
Bottom was the filtered tap water, drawn from the standard staff water fountain found on each floor at Decanter’s publisher IPC Media’s headquarters in Southwark.
Decanter editor Guy Woodward said the tasting was instructive in showing up the ‘outrageous’ prices charged for mineral waters – which rival the ‘scandalous’ markups on wine.
‘It’s bad enough that restaurants get away with charging largely ignorant consumers scandalous mark-ups on wine, but charging £5, £10 and £20 for a resource which is freely available is an outrage – particularly when even the most well-trained palates couldn’t tell these supposedly superior products apart from plain tap water when tasting a range of waters blind.
‘In fact, most tasters preferred the tap water.’
Waters in ranked order
Waiwera – New Zealand £9/litre (Claridge’s)
Vittel – France 59p/1.5l (Tesco)
Thames tap water – £0.09918/l
Iskilde – Denmark £9/l (Claridge’s)
10 Thousand BC – British Columbia £15/75cl
Fiji – Fiji £1/33cl
Speyside Glenlivet – Scotland £5.50/75cl (Claridge’s)
OGO – The Netherlands £6/33cl (Claridge’s)
Aqua Deco – Canada £15/75cl
Lauquen – Argentina £9/75cl (Claridge’s)
Aqua Panna – Italy £6/75cl (Claridge’s)
Antipodes New Zealand £9/l (Claridge’s)
TyNant – Wales £1.29/75cl
Finé – Japan £15/72cl (Claridge’s)
Evian – France 70p/2l (Tesco)
Tau – Wales £5/75cl (Claridge’s)
Solé – Italy £5.50/75cl (Claridge’s)
420 Volcanic – New Zealand £21/42cl (Claridge’s)
Veen – Finland £3.85/l
Volvic – France 55p/l (Tesco)
Karoo – South Africa £3/l
Bling H20 – USA £20/50cl
Glaciana – Norway £9/50cl
IPC Media filtered tap water – (£0.1208/l)
Written by Adam Lechmere