Is it just me, or did San Pellegrino’s near ubiquity come out of nowhere?
It wasn’t long ago that you’d typically only find San Pellegrino fruit beverages at coffee shops and Italian restaurants, stocked either to please clients who remember it from the old country, or as a way of appearing worldly via the fizzy-drinks cooler.
Then it went mainstream. Just about everywhere you turn, you’ll find it. Grocery stores, pharmacies … hell, even Costco has it. And once something can be bought by the flat at Costco, you know it’s hit a certain critical cultural mass.
That it’s easy to find throughout Canada is no longer in doubt. But what about the taste? Is it worth the extra cash? It’s often twice the price of North American staples like Coke or Pepsi; as of (Word)press time, the regular price of a six pack of cans at my Calgary Co-op is $5.49. That ain’t cheap.
I picked up three flavours at my wife’s request (on sale at London Drugs for a much more affordable $3.33 per six), and decided to swipe a can from each six-pack for reviewing purposes.
The Pitch: “Sparkling fruit beverage from Italy.” The flavours I have boast a juice (from concentrate) quantity of between 16% and 18%. Remember that these are fruit “beverages,” and not fruit juice.
The Look: Nice look, and much more pretty than the previous incarnation. They look imported and premium – from the flavour names to the foil cap protecting the top of the can – which is a requirement, given the cost premium.
The Taste: I tasted three flavours – Aranciata (Orange), Limonata (Lemon), and Aranciata Rossa (Blood Orange). I know there are other flavours available – namely grapefruit and chinotto – but these are the three I got to. Besides, every experience I’ve had with a chinotto beverage has been negative, so why taste something I’m likely not going to enjoy?
Limonata (Lemonade): Sharply sour, countered with some sweetness and bitterness. While it’s refreshing, it’s probably going to give me heartburn tonight. I can taste it in my teeth.
Aranciata (Orange): Sweet orange, with bitter citrus zest. There’s some real complexity here, with mineral notes that add a curious layer of flavour. The real comparison, though, is to Orangina – and there’s no contest. Orangina has a sweet orange/citrus taste that’s simpler and better than Aranciata, with much less bitterness, both up-front and in the finish. Aranciata is more intense, but Orangina is more drinkable. This opinion is shared by NEAROF!’s resident European fruit beverage expert, Aline.
Aranciata Rossa (Blood Orange): According to the package, there’s only 3% blood orange juice, but it really does taste like blood orange. Like the other flavours, it’s bitter and sweet, but with a distinctive, almost ruby-red-grapefruit-like blood orange taste. Poured into a glass, the colour is a pink grapefruit hue (paprika and black carrot are used to boost the red tone). Most interestingly, the blood orange flavour really is different enough from the regular orange flavour to justify its existence in the line; it’s sweeter and less tart than standard Aranciata.
RATINGS AND DETAILS
Cost: $3.33 for a six-pack of 330 mL cans at London Drugs (on sale).
Value for cash money: Meh. Far more than you’d pay for a domestic pop.
Availability: Not hard to find in Canada.
Nutrition? (Blood Orange flavour picked, for simplicity’s sake): Per can (330 mL): 130 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 mg of sodium, 0 grams of fibre, 0 grams of protein. Note that the sweetener used is real sugar, not glucose-fructose.
The verdict: Of the three, Aranciata (orange) is my favourite. But I’d still pick Orangina over any of these three.