Hundreds of brands of bottled water from all over the world are imported into the United States, each with its own unique mineral composition and flavor nuances. Photo © Fred Redhat | Dreamstime.
The Best Mineral Waters & Spring Waters
According to a Nestlé study, Americans drink an average of 23 gallons of bottled water a year (Italians are the champions at 50 gallons, followed by the French, at 38 gallons). Beverage Digest, an industry newsletter that tracks U.S. beverage sales, finds slightly different numbers—21 gallons in 2006. Regardless, 20 years ago, pundits scoffed that Americans, who had perfectly fine municipal water, would not be likely pay for something they could get from their taps for free. But in 2006, Americans drank $11 billion worth of bottled water—more water than milk, according to Beverage Digest. And, Americans drank nearly as much bottled water as beer.† If the growth trend continues, Americans could be drinking more bottled water than tap water within a few years.
†2006 average U.S. per capita consumption figures in gallons, from Beverage Digest: Soft Drinks 50.9, Tap Water 27.1, Beer 21.8, Bottled Water 21, Milk 19.5. The 1996 figures were Soft Drinks 52, Tap Water 30.3, Beer 21.8, Bottled Water 11, Milk 22.7. Thus over 10 years, all categories experienced decline except Bottled Water, which almost doubled, and Beer, which remained flat.
Welcome THE NIBBLE’s water section, edited by Dr. Michael Mascha, author of Fine Waters: A Connoisseur's Guide to the World's Most Distinctive Bottled Waters. Michael introduces you to the great bottled waters of the world for your everyday enjoyment, and suggests how to use them to enliven your dinner and cocktail parties. We’re thrilled to be able to share Michael’s connoisseurship with you, and look forward to share a lot about the hundreds of different bottled waters available in the U.S. We tend to see the same dozen brands in the stores and restaurants, but each month Michael will introduce you to one of his favorite little-known, exceptional fine waters. He welcomes you to enjoy the wealth of detailed information on bottled water at FineWaters.com. Contact Michael directly if you need direction, advice or consultation on this exciting growth category of these specialty beverages.
- Like wine water has terroir. Premium bottled water is a natural product that originates from a particular place with unique flavor and other properties. About 40% of the bottled water sold in the U.S. is purified tap water (these include Aquafina and Dasani, the two largest bottled water brands). If the label says “municipal source,” it’s not premium water but highly processed water.
- Tap water is a fine product used for hydration (“I'm thirsty), while premium bottled water deserves a place at the table in an epicurean context.
- Enjoying bottled water is not a new trend. During the Roman Empire earthen jars filled with naturally carbonated water from Northern Germany (today’s Apollinaris) were transported to Rome at great expense. The 11 aqueducts streaming water into ancient Rome were rated according to the taste and quality of the water.
- Perrier started the single serving bottled water trend in the U.S. While many Americans enjoyed bottled water in Europe, there was scant availability in the U.S. in the early 1970s. Perrier seized the opportunity, invested in a splashy advertising campaign, and suddenly America was drinking bottled water. Now, hundreds of brands are available.
*From a 2005 Nestlé Waters study (Nestlé produces Perrier and Vittel, among other waters).
Take a tip from stylish restaurants and add slices of lemon, lime, or cucumber to the rim of your water glasses. After you’ve cut the slices, make an additional cut from the center to the edge, and use that notch to affix the slice to the rim. Guests can float the pieces in their water for an added touch of flavor. If you keep a clear water pitcher at the table, citrus or cuke slices look colorful inside and flavor the water as well.
|Photo by M. Connors | Morguefile.
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