From the archives (August 28, 2006)…

Aquanomy

The quest for the best bottled water

A few years ago when we were in Patagonia, I had the chance to sample a very rare beverage. After hiking for about an hour or so on the Perito Moreno glacier, our guide called for a rest. We stopped near a pool of water, and we all gathered around to take a closer look. Its blue depths were mesmerizing, but our guide cautioned against getting too close if we didn’t want to sink all the way to the bottom of the glacier. He did recommend that we try the water, though, which we did eagerly, and I can still remember its taste—so pure and amazingly cold.

Of course, the rare part of the experience was drinking the water straight from the source. “Glacier water” is easy to obtain nowadays and comes in handy plastic bottles with no need to freeze your hands; still, there was something special about that Perito Moreno water. I usually find it incredibly difficult to drink the recommended amount of water every day because I feel like I just don’t have a taste for ordinary water; this glacier water was somehow different.

Maybe I was manifesting the first signs of aquanomy, or the “connoisseurship” of water, I’ve recently been reading about in Mireille Guiliano’s book French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure.

Water Water Everywhere
As gastronomy is to food, so aquanomy is to water; the delight in and cultivation of knowledge of that particular subject. In her book, Guiliano mentions aquanomy in the context of the growing worldwide interest in bottled water, something long part of her life as a native Frenchwoman. She notes that there is a restaurant in Paris, Restaurant Colette, that now serves 80 different varieties of bottled water to its customers, making it possible for them to find new options to tempt the palate.

This may seem like decadence to those used to drinking water straight from the tap, or a huge luxury when even clean water is a rare commodity in much of the world. However, I agree with Guiliano in her praise of this trend; we spend much more money and resources on beverages that aren’t healthy for us, what’s wrong with enjoying the experience of drinking something that’s actually good for us?

Waterworld
That sentiment seems to fuel the FineWaters Web site—launched when its founder, a former wine connoisseur, stopped drinking wine because of a medical condition. Filled with information about the best temperature at which to drink water, the right kind of glassware to use, and which water to pair with what food, it is extremely useful for the would-be water connoisseur.

While it may seem strange to pay such attention to water, the site makes a good case for true differences between waters, including mineral content, pH value, and size of bubbles. In fact, the Web site features the FineWaters Balance scale, a measurement of a bottled water’s bubbles, ranging through bold (large bubbles), classic (medium-sized), light, effervescent, and still.

FineWaters also notes the trend of upscale restaurants and bars featuring larger selections of water, and in some cases, employing a water sommelier to help with choosing the most suitable water for the meal. Listing establishments in Tokyo, Montreal, New York, and Paris among others, it shows that the water connoisseurship trend may just be beginning.

Going With the Flow
Although I’m not one to follow trends blindly, I do think there is some merit in the rising appreciation of water. I wouldn’t buy a brand of water simply because it’s the current rage, or because it has a nice bottle, but I could imagine experimenting to find bottled water that tastes good to me. I still need to drink those eight glasses of water a day, and a bottle of designer water is cheaper than a plane ticket to Patagonia. —Morgen Jahnke

More Information about Aquanomy…

cover art

Mireille Guiliano’s book French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure was a smash hit when it was published in 2005. Who doesn’t want to eat like the French and stay thin?

For much more information than you’ll ever need about fine waters, go to the FineWaters Web site.

Restaurant Colette is in the basement of the Colette store in Paris (213 rue Saint-Honoré). You can browse some of its merchandise online at www.colette.fr.