At FineWaters we love to drink Voss Still and Sparkling, it is a nice example of extreme low mineral artesian water with a TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) of 22 mg/l. We wrote about Voss and we introduced it to everybody who wanted to listen. We also pride our self to pay close attention to what we drink as you can imagine.
Enjoying Voss Still and Sparkling on a regular basis, we got different impressions from drinking the still and the carbonated version. For the longest time we were puzzled by the subtle difference in the waters. The sparkling version felt more substantial, not in an in your face way, but subtle and in our opinion noticeable.
On the current Voss site the copy declares that the "water is so naturally pure, so low in sodium, so naturally free of minerals that no other water source on this planet can compare." On the Voss Water Store site, describing the Voss Sparkling Water it reads that: "Known for it’s low mineral content, Voss is recommended to accompany fine wines and food and is the closest thing to pure H2O on the planet."
We attributed the difference in our perception between Still and Sparkling versions of the water to the carbonation, worried about our palate, and kept drinking it.
The thing we did not do, is look at the label of the Voss Sparkling Water. The fact, that the label is very hard to read, being light grey on transparent and extremely small, should not have been discouraging us. We always recommend our readers to pay intelligent attention and look at the labels.
What we discovered stunned us. The TDS of Voss Sparkling water was indicated on the label at a whooping 500mg/l. This was 23 times more than we expected as every reported figure puts the TDS of Voss at 22 mg/l.
Could it be that our perception was right after all?
The first thing we wanted to do is to make sure we are not subject to a freak, or misprinted label. We contacted Gene Donney, a renowned water connoisseur and founder of Aqua Maestro, the leading high-end bottled water distributor in the US. He confirmed, that he also had a bottle of Voss Sparkling and that it says "Total Dissolved Solids 500 mg/l". He also expressed surprise that no one before seems to have noticed the high TDS level.
I thought it was time to contact Voss and we asked Nina Brøndmo, responsible for PR at Vosswater.com, the obvious question: "Are you using different water for still and sparkling bottling of your water?"
The explanation provided by Nina was, that: " ... both our still and sparkling water is from the same source, however due to the fact that we ad the carbon dioxide the TDS measure increases. This goes for all sparkling waters."
The problem with the explanation is the fact, that TDS measures the Total Dissolved Solids, which does not include gases. There is also no other water, we are aware of, that has an increase of TDS by a factor of 23 just by adding CO2.
We insisted on a more realistic explanation, and we were provided with one by Gard Skogstrøm Andreassen, of Voss in Norway. His response was enlightening: "… I can inform you that the reason for the different levels is that VOSS Sparkling Water has sodium bicarbonate added "for flavor and balance". This is stated on the product with capital letters below the nutritional information."
Gard was absolutely right! Again we have failed to read the label correctly. It clearly states that the ingredients of Voss Sparkling water are: Artesian Water, Carbon Dioxide, and Sodium Bicarbonate*.
Being surprised at the fact that Voss felt the need to artificially augment such a great water with Bicarbonates, we asked Mr. Andreassen for the reason, and he was kind enough to explain that "The levels of carbon dioxide and sodium bicarbonate in VOSS Sparkling Water is the result of years of research, collaborating with leading chefs to find the optimum balance between taste and carbonization to ensure that VOSS Sparkling Water is as good a companion with fine food and wine as VOSS Artesian Water."
In the meantime we went shopping to purchase more bottles of Voss Sparkling and were surprised, to find another batch of water with a TDS of 290 mg/l. Lower then the 500mg/l but still 13 times higher then expected. Now we were confused, finding two different levels of TDS in the water.
The explanation, provided by Voss’s CEO, Ole Christian Sandberg was, that the 500mg/l labeling was a safeguard against inconsistencies in the augmentation of Voss Artesian water with Bicarbonates and that the actual TDS levels where much lower. According to Mr. Sandberg, the 500mg/l labels were on the Voss Sparkling bottles from 2001 to early 2005. Since then the inconsistencies in the augmentation with Bicarbonates has been reduced and the labels now read 290 mg/l.
Does this make Voss Sparkling water enhanced water?
We think so. Here is what Gene D. Donney of Aqua Maestro, a leading seller of Voss, replied: "By our definition at Aqua Maestro, any "polished" or mineral-enhanced water - in other words, any water whose chemistry is artificially altered for whatever reason - qualifies it a processed water, rather than a natural water. Frankly, I don't understand the need for this in the case of Voss, which happens to be a popular brand in our retail catalogue. It catches me by surprise that they alter the chemistry of their CO2-infused line. As I say, I don't understand the need for it."
We have also asked Voss that question, and the CEO, Ole Christian Sandberg responded by saying that: "You may consider VOSS sparkling an enhanced product, however according to European regulations it is Artesian spring water with the addition of CO2"
Voss Water Store
* Bicarbonate is fundamental for our bodies and is found in all biological fluids. Bicarbonates play a central role in maintaining the body's internal acid-base balance and, in stomach secretions and it is essential to the process of digestion. Dissolved in water, it helps neutralize any lactic acid generated during physical exertion and raises the pH of certain acidic foods.