Even though it's tough on your teeth, I really enjoy judging at wine competitions.
It's a great way to get a snapshot of current trends, conditions of the vintage and, of course, how winemakers are embracing new technologies and techniques or time-held traditions.
I love it because no matter how many years you have under your belt, you're learning something new all the time.
Recently, I've also entertained the idea of stretching my palate into something like tea, coffee or olive oil judging; I could definitely have a crack at that.
But it wasn't until earlier this week that my eyes, nose and mouth were given a real shake-up by how amazing good-quality water can be.
Most cities I've lived in around New Zealand have had great water, but others offer dull, flabby water from the taps.
My house in Christchurch has its own well deep underground - and I thought our water was the most sublime non-alcoholic drink I'd ever ingested until I put a glass of it up against Acqua Panna from Italy. Sourced from an aquifer deep beneath Monte Gazzaro in the Tuscan Apennines, it has amazing clarity and luminosity, reflecting loads of colour just like I imagine a beautifully cut diamond would (alas, I only possess cubic zirconias ... ).
Both waters smelled very clean and fresh, however the Acqua Panna definitely had the edge in terms of taste.
It has very low acidity and mineral salts apparently, which probably accounted for why it so incredibly smooth, light and velvety.
The crazy thing was, the flavour of the water persisted in the mouth long after it'd been swallowed - odd, because you expect after drinking something that prides itself on being neutral - there'd be no aftertaste at all.
Although when I think about it, it was less of a "taste" and more of a "texture".
I'd been told that a reliable test of a mineral water's quality is to have a really good swig after drinking a cup of coffee or a glass of wine; swirl it around in your mouth, swish it right to the back teeth then swallow.
If you can still taste the previous beverage, the water isn't really that flash.
So I set to work, firstly with my breakfast plunger right through to my morning tea mug of Avalanche Instant.
One mouthful of Acqua Panna made my mouth feel as though I'd just brushed my teeth (without the minty finish), excellent!
This was followed by a long afternoon of tasting my way through dozens of Italian wines for an upcoming magazine feature.
One sip of this water as I moved between the sparkling wines to the whites and on to the roses and the reds, meant an instant, cleansed palate which is probably why Acqua Panna is now the official mineral water of the Association del la Sommelliere Internationale and is served alongside wines at major international wine competitions and events.
However, at $4.50 for a 1L bottle, I'll be using it only for when I'm doing a lot of wine tasting rather than bathing in it like some impossibly wealthy types in London are choosing to do with their favourite tipple.
Always classy, my father used to say when he saw an attractive woman, something along the lines of "I could drink her bathwater", which is rather gross.
But I suspect there'd be loads of men saying the same thing after learning about the newly launched Champagne Bath menu at The Cadogan Hotel in London. Located in moneyed Knightsbridge, they're now offering a Dom Perignon 2002 bath for the equivalent of $47,300.
Designed to mark the hotel's 125th anniversary and kicking off on Valentine's Day and running for the next 12 months, the budget version of this new take on a bubble bath will set you back $7500 for a bath filled with 122 bottles of Louis de Custine Brut 1998, or you could choose the Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut bath for $11,000, or the Veuve Clicquot Brut bath for $13,000.
Your bath can be heated to whatever temperature the customer requests and an optional "bath butler" will be on hand to pour the submerged guest one of six complimentary bottles offered with the service, and serve them with chocolate-covered strawberries.