Award for best-tasting water goes to a village in northwest Ohio

There’s something in the water in Montpelier, and it’s award-winning.
Published: Feb. 28, 2022 at 5:28 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Ohio (WTVG) - The village of Montpelier won top honors of an international competition, and it’s all thanks to their water. The contest included spots in Japan, Italy, Australia, and the US. Here at home, Montpelier took first in the Municipal category.

It’s the Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting, known as the “Olympics of Water”. Nine judges tasted and inspected nearly 100 samples of water from all over the world.

Thane Apt is a supervisor at the Montpelier Water Treatment Plant. He bottled up samples of water and sent them over 350 miles away, to Berkeley Springs, WV. He tells 13abc that the honor gives a “sense of pride for the community.” He says, “Being a smaller community, it’s pretty cool we do something this big.”

Apt and Dan Ankney are the only two employees who run the plant, which supplies water to 4,000 people.

Montpelier Mayor Steve Yagelski is proud of the two-man team. He tells 13abc, “The work these guys do out here at this facility, is unbelievable. If the public only knew all the testing they have to do and follow all the EPA standards to pass.”

Nearly 100 water samples were submitted for sniffing and sampling, kind of like a wine tasting.

“They look at clarity, taste, how refreshing it is, odor,” explains the mayor.

Montpelier water comes from the Michindoh Aquifer, which has been at the center of multiple fights in recent years to protect the underground water source.

“With what’s going on in the world today, water is going to become a shortage,” says Mayor Yagelski. “And if we’re not careful, it’s going to become contaminated.”

This is the fifth time the village has won the top spot. New judges are tapped each year, so the mayor says so many awards since the early 2000′s is a testament to the resource Montpelier holds dear.

“The water goes through a lot of porous material. And the pores help filter the water. So, where our wells are, it’s more at the bottom, and that’s where the clearer water is.”

Mayor Yagelski says he drinks the tap water every day and calls it refreshing, but notes that some residents have pointed out a smell of sulfur or chlorine. He explains: “A lot of times we’re flushing the hydrants. We have to flush the hydrants to keep the water system purified that goes into the homes.”

The following is from the press release that lists the judging process and winners of each category:

The Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting, the world’s most prestigious, gave out awards tonight to waters from four continents. Five continents had waters among the nearly 100 entered.

The municipal water category was a battle of champions with previous gold medal winner Village of Montpelier, OH judged best in the world for 2022. The silver medal went to multiple medal winners, Metropolitan Water District of Southern CA, and another winner of numerous medals won bronze, Mission Springs Water District, Desert Hot Springs, CA. 4th and 5th went to Fort Wayne, IN, and Hamilton, OH, respectively.

“The consistency in winners from year to year with different panels of judges validates the choices,” remarked esteemed watermaster, Arthur von Wiesenberger. “It also speaks to the impressively high caliber of the waters entered.”

The Best Non-Carbonated Water category winner was a new entry, Vortex Energy from Meriden, CT. The silver medal went to Halstead Springs, Speedwell, TN. Asagiri no Shizuku, Shizuka, Japan tied with Smeraldina Still Water, Sardinia, Italy, for bronze. 4th place was also a tie between previous winners Grand Springs, Alton, VA, and Theoni Natural Mineral Water, Karditsa, Greece.

The event proves valuable for bottled waters both carbonated and still. Waters use a win in Berkeley Springs for bragging rights and often redesign their labels to include the gold, silver, or bronze medal. Over a dozen entrants in the 2022 contest sported a medal-decorated label.

Nine media judges spent hours tasting and selecting from waters sourced in sixteen states, three Canadian provinces, and eighteen foreign countries. “There were entries from two new countries this year: St. Kitts and Nevis, and Indonesia. The total of countries over the life of the event is 59, including waters from Tasmania, Turkey, Bosnia, Greece, and Australia,” said Jill Klein Rone, event producer.

In the Sparkling water category, the gold medal went to first-time entry, Big Wet Sparkling Spring Water, Victoria, Australia. Boston Clear Water, Lynnfield, MA, and Vortex Energy, Meriden, CT tied for the silver medal. Bronze went to Aqua To Go Sparkling Natural Spring Water, Victoria, Australia. Antipodes Water, Otakiri, Whakatane, New Zealand came in 4th.

For the second year in a row, the gold medal winner in the Purified Water category is Ophora Hyper-Oxygenated Water, Santa Barbara, CA, who also won gold in 2018. The silver medal went to former medalist, Hamilton on Tap, Hamilton, OH. Bronze is also a former medalist, Lesage Natural Water, Lesage, WV.

“It was another wonderful year for the largest and longest-running water tasting in the world,” said von Wiesenberger. “Berkeley Springs is the Olympics of water.” He also praised the selection of the Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Shayron Barnes-Selby and welcomed the participation of the award sponsorship by Tesanjski kiseljak and company Zema d.o.o from Tesanj, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Online voting for the People’s Choice package design was initiated in 2021. The packaging category had 10 entrants competing for most alluring. Bright Hawaiian blooms on the aqua bottle earned Hawaiian Springs Natural Artesian Water, Kea’au, HI, the gold medal for best package design. Antipodes, Otakiri, Whakatane, New Zealand won the silver medal, and the bronze went to Babinda Springs, Babinda, Queensland, Australia. Multi medalist Svalbarði Polar Iceberg Water Jade Edition, Longyearbyen, Norway placed 4th and Smeraldina Water, Sardinia, Italy was 5th.

Conclusion of the daylong water tasting is the famed “water rush” where the audience is invited to take home hundreds of bottles of water sent as part of the judging. While it takes hours to arrange the bottles, the crowd spent less than ten minutes making it all disappear. “We were pleased to see our favorite couple from Brooklyn in the rush. Peter and Cynthia Lloyd come every year, especially for the water tasting – and the rush,” said Klein Rone.

The nine media judges selected by Klein Rone included representatives from Wonderland Entertainment, The Washington Post, and the WV Department of Tourism, as well as various regional and national media including newspapers, websites, and online and print magazines. They were trained by von Wiesenberger to look, sniff, and taste each water under guidelines similar to those in a wine tasting. The waters were rated for each attribute including appearance (it should be clear - or slightly opaque for glacial waters), aroma (there should be none), taste (it should taste clean), mouth feel (it should feel light), aftertaste (it should leave you thirsty for more).

The judges’ job is crucial and so is their training. All judges are presented with a diploma designating them as a Certified Water Taster.

The event was produced by Travel Berkeley Springs and held at The Country Inn, with support from presenting sponsor, Hawaiian Springs Water. The 33rd annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting is scheduled for Saturday, February 25, 2023. The event seminar on Friday and Saturday’s award ceremony were live-streamed and are archived for future viewing on the BerkeleySpringsWV Facebook page. For more information on Berkeley Springs or its water tasting, call 304-258-9147 or check the website.

Best Municipal Water – 2022

  • 1st – Village of Montpelier, OH
  • 2nd - Metropolitan Water District of Southern CA
  • 3rd – Mission Springs Water District, Desert Hot Springs, CA
  • 4th -- Fort Wayne, IN
  • 5th – Hamilton, OH

Best Non-carbonated Water – 2022

  • 1st – Vortex Energy, Meriden, CT
  • 2nd – Halstead Springs, Speedwell, TN
  • Tie 3rd – Asagiri no Shizuku, Shizuka, Japan
  • Tie 3rd – Smeraldina Still Water, Sardinia, Italy
  • Tie 4th – Theoni Natural Mineral Water, Karditsa, Greece
  • Tie 4th – Grand Springs Spring Water, Alton, VA

Best Sparkling Water – 2022

  • 1st – Big Wet Sparkling Spring Water, Victoria, Australia
  • Tie 2nd – Boston Clear Water, Lynnfield, MA
  • Tie 2nd – Vortex Energy, Meriden, CT
  • 3rd – Aqua To Go Sparkling Natural Spring Water, Victoria, Australia
  • 4th – Antipodes Water, Otakiri, Whakatane, New Zealand

Best Purified Drinking Water – 2022

  • 1st – Ophora Hyper-Oxygenated Water, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 2nd – Hamilton On Tap, Hamilton, OH
  • 3rd – Lesage Natural, Lesage, WV

People’s Choice Package Design – 2022

  • 1st – Hawaiian Springs Natural Artesian Water, Kea’au, HI
  • 2nd – Antipodes Water, Otakiri, Whakatane, New Zealand
  • 3rd – Babinda Springs, Babinda, Queensland, Australia
  • 4th – Svalbarði Polar Iceberg Water Jade Edition, Longyearbyen, Norway
  • 5th – Smeraldina Water, Sardinia, Italy

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