For hundreds of pounds a bottle, diners scanning the wine lists of opulent restaurants can sip exquisite vintages that have spent decades gathering dust in cellars. And now, the London hotel Claridge's has gone one further: it has introduced what is believed to be the first water list.
It offers an extravagant choice of waters from the farthest corners of the earth, with the most most expensive variety working out at a £50 a litre.
Available from the five-star hotel's bar, dining room and room service from next month, the water menu has 32 bottles from sources as diverse as Norwegian icebergs and Hawaiian deep sea lakes. Each comes with a short description of its character and mineral content.
For instance, 420 Volcanic, at £21 for a 42cl bottle, the most expensive, springs from the bottom of an extinct volcano at Tai Tapu in New Zealand andis credited with a "pleasant, smooth sensation on the palette".
Cloud Juice, bottled on King Island in Tasmania, started out as rainwater that fell on one of the remotest places in the world, while Lauquen from Patagonia, Argentina, originated as snow in the Andes.
Another bottle, Mahalo, brims with water from a deep sea lake off Hawaii, where it sank thousands of years ago after melting from an iceberg. It is collected from the bottom of the ocean by a 3,000ft pipeline.
From India's Nilgris mountains, Just Born Spring Drops comes from such an environmentally pure area that it is particularly suited for people with sensitive digestions, newborn babies, children, pregnant women and the elderly.
Japan's artesian water is said to go well with sashimi and caviar on account of its pH balance and silica content, and has a slightly sweet taste. Berg (£15 for half a litre) is sourced from icebergs in Newfoundland.
From closer to home, Claridge's lists the familiar French brands of Evian, Perrier and Volvic as well as less known mineral waters, such as glacial spring water from a fjord at Osa, Norway, and Italian spring water from Fiuggi, which was favoured by Michelangelo in the 16th century and is apparently popular at the Vatican.
There are six British waters, from Hampshire, Shropshire, the Welsh mountains and Scotland, among them Llanllyr, a soft water from a spring under organic fields which has belonged to the same family since 1720.
Claridge's said it put together the list after extensive research because of demand from guests. "Water is becoming like wine," said the food and beverage director Renaud Grégoire. "Every guest has an opinion and asks for a particular brand."
Britain has seen an increasing thirst for bottled water in recent years, with sales rising by 7 per cent a year to £1.6bn. On average each Briton drinks 37 litres of the bottled stuff a year.
Environmental groups claim that the boom in bottled water is harmful and unnecessary as some waters are brought to Britain from 12,000 miles away, despite tapwater being readily available. The Thames Water alternative at Claridge's costs just one tenth of a penny per litre.Reuse content