February 02 2011
If there is no bottle of my favourite Spanish mineral water in my fridge door, I panic. For that reason I buy in crates of the stuff so I won’t be without. In summer I get through it at a rate of bottle a day. It is a fabulous thing to wake up to, even before the coffee and toast, and long hot afternoons wouldn’t be the same without a big glass with plenty of ice and a dash of fresh lime juice or elderflower cordial.
Vichy Catalan is a legendary name among mineral waters, up there with Pellegrino and Perrier, though I actually prefer it to both. Bottled at the natural spring of Caldes de Malavella, near Girona, where in 1875 a Dr Furest founded the Vichy Catalan company (and later built a spa and hotel on the site which are still very much open for business), this is a sparkling water that claims that it can reduce blood cholesterol by as much as 10 per cent if taken regularly.
Health claims aside, there is nothing like a big glass with plenty of ice and lemon to take the edge off, nay, gouge and hew the edge off, the most monumental desert thirst. Gastronomes and bon viveurs swear by it, in part because it burns through the richest food and keeps heartburn, the gourmet’s enemy, at bay. It also forms part of my standard hangover cure, seeming to cleanse the body and lift the spirits even at the first icy, fizzing sip. Vichy Catalan is ideal for those who find it difficult to drink the required amount of water – it is so “big” a drink that it doesn’t seem like water at all.
The taste, heavy on the bicarbonates and carbon dioxide, is minerally and uniquely refreshing. The bubbles are big and bruising. Not everyone likes it. But those of us who love it, swear by it. One thing’s for sure: this is not a mineral water for wusses.
Vichy Catalan is widely available across Spain. In the UK it is available online from companies such as Aqua Amore; 12 one-litre bottles cost £21.40, plus delivery charge.