The wild, wild secrets of caviar
I’ve always loved traveling, discovering new places and going to the exact source of foods I crave…another reason why I love my job. You see, I’ve felt the cold wind of the Caspian Sea, stood before the picturesque Qiandao lake in China's Zhejiang province and been close to my home in Italy where sturgeon is farmed.
Sadly, after the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s, poaching and pollution destroyed sturgeon supplies in the Caspian Sea. Controls that were put in place, were not enforced and so anyone who had a boat could catch sturgeons which of course led to the almost extinction of the species.
Thankfully, CITES (The Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species) stepped in and declared wild sturgeon a protected species worldwide. Today, trading wild sturgeon is considered illegal…like smuggling baby pandas or ivory!
And so, the new era of farmed caviar started. It’s controlled, sustainable and also more affordable. In the past, only the few super rich or ‘well-connected’ were able to buy from the high-end, black-market Iranian Beluga Caviar.
One of the first sturgeon farms was started 40 years ago in Italy, followed by the French, Chinese and Americans. Farming caviar is a major investment. While some are private, governments often step in to help them, although now more and more are popping up, but only a few farms can produce high quality and quantity with consistency.
To put it into perspective, a Beluga sturgeon produces the caviar that we can use 20 years later.
Furthermore, the quality of the caviar depends on the well-being of the sturgeon who need fresh water and the highest quality of feed. Farms that safeguard the species, with a sustainable approach relies upon the well-being of the sturgeons.
When many of us think ‘farmed’, we tend to envision hundreds of salmon all swimming together in a tank. This is not the case with quality caviar. The money, time and effort it takes to produce caviar is enormous. These farms with breathtaking massive lakes are truly stunning. And knowing that caviar nearly became extinct, seeing these farms is really a good thing!
So for Italtouch, I selected three of the oldest caviar farms in the world that can guarantee excellence in quality and consistency of taste.
Tradition Prestige Caviar, Calvisius Italian
Tradition caviar comes from the white sturgeon, (Acpencer Trasmontanous) a species from the Pacific coast of North America between Alaska & Baja California. It is one of the longest living Sturgeon and it is heavier than 1,750lbs (800 kg) and measures up to 19ft. long (6 m).
Tradition Prestige has large eggs that are silky and have elegant notes. Creamy, buttery flavour arrive first as hints of seaweed yield to a long, impressive clean finish. The taste of this caviar is perfectly balanced, combining delicate nuances of the sea with light, buttery flavour of pastry. The time required to harvest this caviar is approximately 14 to 15 years.
Beluga Caviar, Calvisius Italian
Beluga is a caviar extracted from the Huso Huso sturgeon. A fish that can reach 8 meters (26 ft) in length and more than 1.5 tons (3300 lbs) in weight. Originally found in the Black Sea, Caspian Sea, Azov Sea, it was also present in Italy in the Adriatic Sea, Ionian Sea and their tributaries before its extinction.
Its quality is the most rare and expensive, defined by large roe (more than 3 mm), oval shape and colour tones of pearl to dark grey. This caviar has to be tasted strictly by itself to truly appreciate and savour its incredible quality.
The time required to harvest this prized caviar is 20 years.
Oscietra Royal Caviar
Oscietra Royal is a caviar extracted from the Russian Sturgeon (Acipenser Gueldenstaedtii), a species originally native to the Caspian Sea, Black Sea and Azov Sea. This medium-sized sturgeon can weigh between 20 to 60kg.
Only the largest roe is selected for this elegant caviar, with a subtle fruity and nutty flavour and with tones of dark brown to beige in color. Considered to be one of the more notable caviar, enjoy it on its own.
The time required to harvest this caviar is approximately 10 to 11 years.
Caviar Ars - Italica Oscietra Classic
Oscietra Classic is a caviar extracted from the Russian sturgeon (Acipenser Gueldenstaedtii), a species with origins from the Caspian Sea, Black Sea and Azov Sea. A medium-sized fish that can weigh from 20 to 60 kg
(44 to 132 lbs).
This elegant roe with a diameter between 2.7 to 3.2 mm (7/64 to 1/8 inch) boasts a soft flavour with fruity notes and delicate nutty aromas. The colour ranges from dark brown to beige. Considered to be one of the more notable caviars, enjoy it on its own.
The time required to harvest this caviar is approximately 9 to 11 years.
Iranian Beluga (Huso Huso) Caviar
This Beluga Caviar also known as the Beluga Sturgeon or Great sturgeon (Huso huso) is a species of Anadromous fish in the Sturgeon family. The farm is located on the coast of the Caspian Sea in Iran and is the first private company to breed “Wild Sturgeon and which has released tens of thousands back in the Caspian Sea. The fish are manually feed and the water used for farming is from the Caspian to simulate the same original habitat for the fish.
The large roe is oval shape and the colour tones of the pearls are light grey. This caviar has a rich, smooth taste and is of the highest quality. Delicious on it’s on or with some crème fraiche and blinis.
The time required to harvest this caviar is approximately 18 to 20 years.
Italtouch Caviar Exclusive (Hybris Acipenser Schrenckii* Huso dauricus)
Caviar Kaluga Queen, hybrid
This farm-raised derived from a hybrid of Amur River sturgeons Kaluga (Huso dauricus) and Schrenkii (acipenser schrenkii), has beautiful colours ranging from vibrant gold to chocolate brown with grains that are truly spectacular in size.
In addition to being large in size and light in colour, Kaluga Hybrid caviar has an incredible delicate and buttery flavour with a slight hint of the sea and glistening finish. It is a popular caviar amongst chefs, a great balance of texture and flavour.
You will love this ecologically friendly farm-raised caviar, with it’s marvelous eggs and mellow, rich, buttery flavour.
The time required to harvest this caviar is approximately 10 to years.