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Well Spring in Trentino

I went to the source of Surgiva, my favorite mineral water, in the unspoiled Nambrone Valley (about 75 kilometers north and west from the northern tip of Lake Garda, an easy drive from Trento), to see if I could learn why it's so delicious. The alpine glacial water springs from a rock vein at Pra dell'Era, a peak in the Adamello Alps, connected by stainless steel pipes to the bottling plant in the nearby town of Carisolo.

Mineral water in Italy is tightly regulated. Each bottle lists a dated bacteriological and chemical analysis in almost impossible-to-read small print, which includes data like water temperature at the source, electrical conductivity at 20 °C, dissolved substances and medical implications (such as: "stimulates gastric functions"). The most important figure to look at is the fixed residue, measured in milligrams per liter after evaporating the water. Italian mineral water is divided into four categories: minimamente mineralizzata (minimally mineralized) tastes light, clean and has the lowest mineral content (up to 50 mg of residue per liter), followed by oligominerale (low mineral, 50 to 500 mg), minerale (500 to 1,500 mg) and ricca in sali minerali (rich in mineral salts, with over 1,500 mg - these can taste like salt licks)

The FDA has banned any of this information from appearing on labels in the United States. San Pellegrino, the most popular Italian mineral water in the United States, has a fixed residue of 1,118 mg per liter. French favorites Evian (309 mg) and Perrier (465 mg) both would qualify as oligominerale. Surgiva is classified as minimally mineralized, with a fixed residue of 38 mg per liter, one of the lowest in Italy. No wonder it tastes so good. It can be found in natural and fizzy (carbon dioxide added) versions in fine restaurants in Italy and the United States.

Surgiva closes the pipeline to Carisolo when they're not bottling, and the water is diverted to the Pinzolo aqueduct. Those who want to bathe in Surgiva mineral water should plan a weekend or overnight visit to Pinzolo, neighboring the Adamello Brenta park.

February 7, 1996


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