Ever wonder how a James Beard Award-winning sommelier might size up plain old bottled water? Well, we did.
Enter Belinda Chang: insanely accomplished wine pro, Chicagoland native, and all-around hilarious human. Belinda heads up the wine and spirits program at Maple & Ash, an upscale steakhouse smack in Chicago's chichi Gold Coast, and comes to the table (er, corner booth) with a boatload of experience, including stints as a wine director for the likes of Charlie Trotter and Danny Meyer (she nabbed a James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine Service at The Modern). On a recent sunny afternoon, Belinda graciously allowed us to turn Maple & Ash's cocktail bar into a bottled-water research lab and, like a true champion, plowed through 9 different brands. Our somm evaluated each bottle in terms of flavor, aroma, texture, and finish and scored each out of 100 possible points, Wine Spectator-style.
"A good bottled water shouldn't have any off-putting aromas or flavors, that would be an automatic negative," the beverage master explains, taking our little experiment as seriously as humanly possible. "In wine, we always talk about terroir, and I think for water it's the same. You want it to speak of the place where it comes from. And, of course, you want it to be delicious."
So, which bottle dove gracefully into the glass and which belly flopped?