Time was when we used to drink bottled water in France because we did not trust French tap water to be clean and safe. Now French mains water is as safe as anywhere, and yet we are drinking so many more millions of litres of bottled water, even at home. Of course, despite the very healthy image pushed by some extravagant marketing campaigns emphasising freshness, purity and detox, many consider that our passion for bottled water is environmentally unsound – the energy used to extract, bottle, produce the plastic bottles and transport the water adds up to a massive environmental cost – compared to tap water which is (still) much cheaper and has little environmental impact.
However, I for one still enjoy some bottled waters, so here is a quick guide to the main contenders.

Evian (74, Haute-Savoie, Rhone-Alpes) is a still clean tasting mineral water that comes from the French Alps, taking 15 years to be naturally filtered through a glacier and sand deposits deep within a mountain. Evian-les-Bains is also a major town/resort/spa on the south side of Lake Geneva an area of the map that would be easy to assume is in Switzerland. – .see www.evian.fr

is a light natural sparkling mineral water with a more distinctive minerally taste which comes up from a deep water table through a 500-metre fissure in the local granite.It is more of an acquired taste with its taste of sodium bicarbonate and fluoride, but is rated by many connoisseurs as the best water for a restaurant meal.The water comes from St Galmier (42 Loire, Rhone-Alpes) in the Massif Centrale, near the source of the Loire between Roanne and St Etienne, west of Lyon – see www.danone.com

Perrier is perhaps the most notorious brand, who were exposed for claiming that their water was naturally sparkling, when in fact the water is carbonated the claim is now that it is “fortified with gas from the spring” – CO2 is tapped at great depths, before it reaches the mineral water table, and is used to boost the spring water. It comes from Vergeze (30 Gard, Languedoc). It is perhaps the most heavily marketed water in its distinctive bottle shape, which has been a French icon for many years – see www.perrier.com

Vittel comes from the the town of Vittel (88 Vosges, Alsace-Lorraine) in the Vosges mountains in Eastern France (south of Nancy) and is a still natural mineral water with low mineral level – see www.vittel-water.co.uk/

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