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Designer Water: The New Wine


Joe Riley
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I ran across this item from Canada.com this evening, and while I'm not shocked, I can't help but shake my head in mild disbelief:

Just when you thought only one man could turn water into wine, along comes a Canadian entrepreneur with H2O that's bottled, sold and sipped as if it were the finest Cabernet.

And, at $54 for a case of 12, it might as well be.

Part of an emerging trend toward water connoisseurship, 10 Thousand BC is "ultra-premium" water derived from an environmentally protected glacier.

It is bottled and corked to the sound of inspirational music -- much like playing Mozart to a baby in the womb -- and served to aficionados who shudder at the thought of table water containing more than four parts per million in total dissolved solids.

The luxury swill is one of dozens of new epicurean waters that make Evian and Perrier look bourgeois.

Each brand boasts its own terroir (mineral content, pH levels, hardness, etc.), which helps determine everything from proper food pairings to stemware and optimum temperature.

"Bottled water is the next wine," enthuses Michael Mascha, author of the new book Fine Waters: A Connoisseur's Guide to the World's Most Distinctive Bottled Waters.

Indeed, Refreshments Canada reports sales of bottled water grew by nearly 20 per cent in 2006. Packaging, however, doesn't indicate pedigree. Mascha, a food anthropologist from Austria, notes many supermarket brands use purified municipal water, which he describes as being "basically bottled tap water." So-called "real" or high-end water represents a different category comprising water from a spring or glacier and possessing characteristics derived from its source.

Andrea Bates, who runs 10 Thousand BC with her husband Tim, calls their limited-production product "the Ferrari of waters." But she admits the audience for upscale H2O, like the one for the exotic sports car, is still limited.

Stephen Lower, a retired professor of chemistry from Vancouver, observes many industry claims don't hold water. "All water is about 4.5 billion years old, having been liberated from the rocky material that accreted to form the Earth," says Lower. "That some of it may have been tied up in glaciers for the comparatively tiny span of 10,000 years strikes me as inconsequential, and begs the question of how it could be described as 'fresh.'"

© The Windsor Star 2007

Personally, the best bottled water I've ever had (sparkling) has been Badoit which is difficult, though not impossible, to find here in the U.S.A. (Sutton Place used to sell it). I also really like Highland Spring from Scotland (sparkling and still) and Saratoga, from New York. Vitel is another nice still water that I enjoy. Gerolsteiner is terrific, but I don't have a vendor for it, I can only seem to find it in large grocery stores around here or Trader Joe's (which has the best case price on it).

I've never had Fiji water (which has very devoted fans), nor scores of others, I'm sure. By and large, when it comes to me and bottled water, it all really comes down to cost per ounce, and there's really only so much that I'm personally willing to pay for that without feeling either foolish or pretentious or both. As long as the water isn't harsh (Perrier) or tastes like it came from a swimming pool, I'll probably be willing to drink it.

What is your bottled water of choice, and why?

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Let's be clear, any $54/case water, like that $40 bottle vodka certain morons are drinking, is probably 40% decent quality, 20% packaging and 40% marketing to people eager to compensaste for the size of various primary and secondary sex organs.

I go for Badoit myself, if only because in a cafe in France we had one of those Franglish conversations where it took a little time to establish that Badoit was just a brand of water, not some obscure and desireable aperetif.

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I grew up in a family bottled water business. I feel the best US mineral water is Mountain Valley from Hot Springs Ak. I also have sampled 100's of European "health" waters. Fugi is very good, Apollinoius from Germany is also very good. Many waters are just that, filtered water that has been bottled, which really irks me when the coke product is more expensive than the water next to it.

I think we should have a water tasting atthe spring picnic.

Let's be clear, any $54/case water, like that $40 bottle vodka certain morons are drinking, is probably 40% decent quality, 20% packaging and 40% marketing to people eager to compensaste for the size of various primary and secondary sex organs.

I go for Badoit myself, if only because in a cafe in France we had one of those Franglish conversations where it took a little time to establish that Badoit was just a brand of water, not some obscure and desireable aperetif.

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I feel the best US mineral water is Mountain Valley from Hot Springs Ak.

You know something? You're not alone. One of my corporate customers swears up and down that Mountain Valley is better than anything else that we sell, and I'm in no position to dispute him.

As for Badoit, my memory has faded a bit over the years, but when I was in France, I met a woman who was a chemical scientist who told me that Badoit was so good because it had a high content of.... of..... and that's where my memory gets me. Not just "minerals", but something in particular made Badoit so good, she said. I almost want to say "benzine" content, but I'm almost certain that is incorrect (hey, I'm no scientist.)

Who else here has seen those blind water tests which demonstrate that may people pick New York City tap water as better tasting than bottled brands?

I should point out that my single biggest objection to having tap water, especially in a restaurant, is the noticeable chlorine content. At home, I use Brita filters and pitchers, especially in my coffee water, and I'm perfectly happy with that. Besides the better taste, it keeps my coffeemaker free of mineral and other deposit buildup.

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We had dinner this past weekend in Philly at WaterWorks which is housed in the old water pumping station next to Boathouse Row. Naturally, given the restaurant's theme, they have a bottled water section in the wine menu. One of the choices was Bling H2O from some high-falutin' aquifer in Kentucky and conceived of by a Hollywood producer. For $50 a bottle, I'm assuming mostly due to the Swarovski crystals that make up the label. At least there is no pretense that the water itself is worth that kind of scratch. From their website:

It's couture water that makes an announcement like a Rolls Royce Phantom ... the "Cristal" of bottled water

:o

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Gerolsteiner is too mineral tasting.

That's why I like it. I can at least discern some sort of character in that water. It has an enjoyable "flavor"-- at least to me.

This is all marketing bullsh*t ranking right up there with the scams of DeBeers, Hallmark, and Phillip Morris.

Edited to add: I would pay big $$$ for Giada's bath water however.

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That's why I like it. I can at least discern some sort of character in that water. It has an enjoyable "flavor"-- at least to me.
It's got something in it that's too strong for me.

I've been buying the Whole Foods "Italian sparkling water" as a Pellegrino substitute. It's pretty good, and much less expensive.

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It's got something in it that's too strong for me.

Might be the uranium.

I've been buying the Whole Foods "Italian sparkling water" as a Pellegrino substitute. It's pretty good, and much less expensive.

You know what's good? Get a bottle of sparkling water and some of that Looza fruit nectar (I'm partial to pear). Fill a glass about 1/3 of the way with the Looza and top it off with the sparkling H2O.

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You know what's good? Get a bottle of sparkling water and some of that Looza fruit nectar (I'm partial to pear). Fill a glass about 1/3 of the way with the Looza and top it off with the sparkling H2O.
I do that! Blackcurrant is my favorite, with apricot a close second. Add a squeeze of lemon.
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Edited to add: I would pay big $$$ for Giada's bath water however.

Get in line, pal :o

Oh, I forgot, there's another pricey water that we have, but one look and you know where your money went, and that is Tynant water from Wales. Those beautiful cobalt blue and fire-engine red glass bottles look great on restaurant tables. Oddly enough, I've never tasted it.

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Oh, I forgot, there's another pricey water that we have, but one look and you know where your money went, and that is Tynant water from Wales. Those beautiful cobalt blue and fire-engine red glass bottles look great on restaurant tables. Oddly enough, I've never tasted it.
It's good. They sometimes sponsor water at wine shows.
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Hate to bump such an old thread, but since this is an ongoing discussion....

I just ran across this wonderful item from the Minnesota Sage himself, the inimitable Garrison Keillor:

I am sorry, Evian and San Pellegrino and Dasani and all the other bottled waters out there — Aqua Velva, Wells Fargo, Muddy Waters, Joan Rivers, Jerry Springer, whatever — but the current campaign against paying good money for bottled water when tap water is perfectly good (and very likely purer) is so sensible on the face of it that I am now done with you. Fini. Kaput. Ausgeschlossen. No more designer water. Water is water. If you want lemon flavoring, add a slice of lemon. You want bubbles, stick a straw in it and blow.

My father, a true conservative, would have smiled on this. All his life he resisted the attempts of big corporations to gouge him by selling him stuff he didn't need and so he was not a consumer of high-priced water, anymore than he would've purchased bottles of French air or Italian soil. No, San Pellegrino and Perrier got rich off the pretensions of liberal wastrels like moi who thought it set us apart from the unlettered masses. We ordered it in restaurants for the same reason we read books we don't like and go to operas we don't understand — we say to the waiter, "Perrier," to give a continental touch to our macaroni and cheese.

Enough. Man is capable of reform once presented with the facts, and the fact is that bottling water and shipping it is a big waste of fuel, so stop already. The water that comes to your house through a pipe is good enough, and maybe better.

(Complete text here: http://prairiehome.publicradio.org/feature...007/10/02.shtml)

To me, the whole fuel issue, that is to say, the COST involved in having water shipped here from Norway, Italy, France, Wales, or wherever, being grossly disproportionate to whatever perceived health benefits or taste benefits on might receive from the bottled water product in question, is the overriding issue where bottled water is concerned.

I remember reading something earlier this year about how the source for Fiji water is an environmental disaster, the bottling plant running 24/7 with generators belching out enough smoke to horrify even the most staunch environmental enemy. It's difficult for me to help promote such environmentally-unfriendly products, so I'll have to at least make a personal commitment to not personally use such

If I need bottled water, I'm going to try and stick to Saratoga or Mountain Valley, or some other domestic, inexpensive brand. I usually only buy it for travel convenience sake, not to use in my own home. For that, I still stick with the Brita filters and local tap.

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I had the most obscure water one time in France, it was mineral water that was enriched with Magnesium : (>) the most harshly mineral taste you can imagine, and i am a big fan of mineral driven, guess just wine on this mater. and then the most expensive mineral water so far has been New Zealand Rain.. terrific, and really an excellent bottling, with almost a neutral palate, but a slight, ever so slight acid freshness, that went for 4.50 wholesale, equalling over 12 $ after restaurant conversions, and drinking three or four of those 750ML in a night taxes the bill to a high proportion :blink:

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Actually, I have been thinking about this a lot lately. Ever since this issue came up with regard to the movie "Good Night and Good Luck" about Edward R. Murrow and Joseph McCarthy. It seems that a scene was filmed which showed a plastic bottle of water on a desk. In the 1950's? I DON"T THINK SO. So, it had to be edited (or Photoshopped?) out. What did people DO in those days for water? Why, they carried canteens! Yes, those extremely useful metal things with a screw top that one could use over and over again. I'm such an old geezer that I actually had one of those things, along with a "mess kit" in my Girl Scout days. This consisted of a metal pan with a folding handle and it all folded up into something one could carry on one's body. No trash--no waste. I believe we are about to go back to those days. Hey! It could be worse!

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I agree with the arguments against bottled water in general, but one thing that I think is being lost in this discussion is that DC's tap water is disgusting. It has an unpleasant taste and may contain harmful amounts of lead. In my experience, no amount of filtering can remove the taste. For that reason, I buy jugs of water for home consumption and only order tap water when I am trying to keep the bill down. What really gets me is when restaurants mark up the water at 3x retail. It feels unfair when tap water is not really a viable option. It makes me wonder what the corkage would be on a bottle of Evian :blink:

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I agree with the arguments against bottled water in general, but one thing that I think is being lost in this discussion is that DC's tap water is disgusting. It has an unpleasant taste and may contain harmful amounts of lead. In my experience, no amount of filtering can remove the taste. For that reason, I buy jugs of water for home consumption and only order tap water when I am trying to keep the bill down. What really gets me is when restaurants mark up the water at 3x retail. It feels unfair when tap water is not really a viable option. It makes me wonder what the corkage would be on a bottle of Evian :blink:
This is certainly a factor, especially the lead. When we first first moved in to our current house in 1992, we knew we had lead pipes coming in from the street. We had the water tested, and the lead level was negligible. When the problems with WASA and lead came up a few years ago, a retest showed that the lead levels had increased significantly, though they were still within the "acceptable" range. The pipes have been replaced, but I'm still a little wary of unfiltered tap water. I'll order it in a restaurant, since we don't eat out a whole lot, but I tend to avoid drinking big glasses of it at home.

We used to keep a Brita pitcher on the counter years ago, but it got knocked off and broke (very cluttered counters). Now we use filtered water from the refrigerator ice maker. I still buy bottled water to keep upstairs by the bed to drink at night (I swear the plastic taste starts to leech in if you refill the bottle more than a couple of times) and for other uses of convenience. I cook with the tap water and make coffee and tea (the little that I do) with it.

I don't think the water tastes that bad. It's not as good as the water we had from the tap where I grew up in PA but is far easier to drink than the vile liquid that passed for tap water in Philadelphia in the 1960s and 70s. That is the most disgusting water I have ever had anywhere. It makes me queasy to think about it. (The Philly water is much better now.)

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In developing countries, especially in areas with a large expat presence, the sheer volume of empty water bottles is awe-inspiring. To see them, you don't have to go to a landfill (they generally don't have those) or to a recycling center (they definitely don't have those). No, the flattened bottles are stretching along every gutter, paving every street, clogging every corner. Many folks I know drink bottled water unapologetically, saying that distilled water tastes "ucky." But having seen the end product, bottled water won't pass my lips if there's any at all other option available that won't give me giardia.

Don't get me started on the fields of plastic bags...

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