Bonnie: When invited on a European Great Springs Safari many years ago, I couldn’t resist. Not only would I get to sample waters at the source of four different springs, but I’d learn how each source affects the water’s taste and character, about the latest research in hydration, the “gastronomy of water” and hydrogeology itself. (The latter, a branch of geology concerned with movement of water underground through rocks or on the surface of the earth.)

After our transatlantic flight we boarded a charter flight to Epinal (France) followed by a short drive to the Ermitage Hotel in Vittel where we’d be spending the night. Our first real stop after the long trip: Vittel Spa for a relaxing afternoon.

We soaked in a mineral water filled pool while awaiting spa treatments–my favorite of which was a wet massage. I lay on a table under three shower heads spouting warm water; my masseuse—clad in a bathing suit—worked out the kinks from my journey. I only wish all my travels could end this way.

Leaving the spa relaxed, refreshed and rejuvenated, we stopped for a moment to sample different mineral rich waters.

I was hooked.

Some didn’t like mineral taste, but I did. My dietitian hat was on. My calcium-queen tiara too, especially when I learned how rich in minerals the waters naturally were.

One of the waters from Contrexeville, France naturally provided calcium, a necessary nutrient most Americans aren’t getting enough of (hence our osteoporosis epidemic). In fact, one liter provided 483 milligrams calcium (that’s almost half of what’s recommended in a day) as well as magnesium and other minerals. The minerals collect naturally as the water flows though geological formations to its source.

“Why don’t you export this to the US?” I asked.

“It’s a perfect calorie-free way to naturally consume necessary minerals.”

Europeans are used to—and seek—mineral rich water, while Americans would be put off by the taste, I was told.

I so disagreed. Some of the highly mineralized waters were probably too much for most Americans, but certainly not all of the waters. I did belabor the point throughout the trip.

In San Pellegrino (Yes, there is an Italian city northeast of Milan with that name.) water-expert (and now Santa Barbara-based radio-show host) Arthur von Wiesenberger led us through a tasting of ten mineral waters, sniffing, swirling and sipping just as we would wine. After all, water—just like wine—takes on the flavor of where it’s from (terroir in winespeak). Each water did have a different appearance, odor and mouthfeel. Each writer in the group was amazed how we each could differentiate those nuances.

After the tasting, we digressed for a moment from water to another liquid, popping the cork on champagne to celebrate not only San Pellegrino’s 100th birthday but one of my major ones too.

A few years ago, I learned that Contrex was being introduced in the US and opted to tell Supermarket Sampler readers all about this calcium-rich mineral water. I’ve been singing its praises every since to whoever will listen. For some it’s an acquired taste, for me it was infatuation at first calcium-rich sip.

Bryan: Acquired taste is right. I must say that I am impressed with the mineral content of this natural water; a half-day’s supply of calcium in an unenhanced bottle of water is pretty amazing! I generally prefer natural vitamins and minerals to those added artificially during production (also finding they absorb far better into the body). The one thing many of you may not be ready for is the subtle taste of this product. Contrex does taste like water, but with ’rounded edges’. The bottle is a great way to supplement your diet, drinking it with a snack or meal, but I wouldn’t find myself reaching for one after exercise or on a hot day. The minerals that add so much value to this water also create a flavor that lacks ‘crispness’ or ‘bite’. While these are not often things I’m looking for in my water, I notice when they are missing. Overall, Contrex is a fantastic supplement… though most likely I will continue to treat it as such, rather than as a replacement for my tap.

Eric: I was born and raised an athlete, as was my brother, but unlike him I tried my hand at a variety of sports. During my early years I competed mostly in swimming, and during my high school years I tried my hand at the field events of “Track & Field.” With a nutritionist as a mother, and a constantly training athlete for a father, I was always bombarded with the spiel of “eat your vitamins, minerals, proteins, calcium, blah, blah, blah” – the gist of which was, “stay healthy.” Not to say that I neglected their advice, but many of the sources for getting the daily amount of “health” comes at the expense of either taste, or as my brother so eloquently put it, the artificial pills that people have grown so accustomed to taking. I’ve tried Contrex water a few times, and I can agree that the taste is not the unique selling point of the product. It is however a source of nutrition for anyone that is lacking in providing their bodies with the proper daily nutrients. I for one am still a fan of chugging milk for my calcium (usually from the bottle when my mother is not around), but unfortunately it’s not the most conducive drink for exercising. If you have the chance, give this product a try – you have to remember that we’re not salesmen for the product, we’re just making sure that if you’re going to spend the money on a bottle of water, that you get the most bang for your buck.



The water fountain at Vittel


Yours truly in the study of hydration.


Happy Birthday, San Pellegrino!


Our group’s final luncheon (Arthur von Wiesenberger on the far right)


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