Story by Manos Angelakis
Photos courtesy Manos Angelakis and Sturia Sturgeon Bordeaux
In the wake of overfishing in the 1990s, wild beluga caviar production was suspended from 2007 to 2011 in Russia and a number of the countries that border the Caspian Sea to allow wild stocks to replenish. In 2009, the United Nations banned five countries (including Russia and Iran) from internationally trading caviar because they failed to agree on fishing quotas. At the time, smuggling of Caspian and Black Sea caviar from Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan to affluent markets around the world reached endemic proportions. The UN ban was lifted late in 2010, when producing countries finally agreed on very strict quotas, but since then efforts to successfully farm caviar have been ongoing, while the prices for wild caught product of all kinds have risen to the stratosphere. Traditionally, the term caviar refers only to roe from wild sturgeon in the Caspian and Black Sea. Depending on the country, caviar may also be used to describe the roe of other fish such as paddle fish, salmon, trout, lumpfish, whitefish, carp, flying fish, and other species; the taste of most of these other fish roes is nowhere near the mild sturgeon-egg taste.
There are many caviar varieties now in the market from sustainable farmed resources but, to be honest, the taste of much of the farmed product has been less than stellar. Through the years I have tasted numerous farmed caviars. I tasted one farmed in Germany, a couple others were farmed in the US (California and Oregon), and a few farmed in Turkey (Black Sea), Russia and Kazakhstan and even a farmed product from China. Most looked like Sevruga or Ossetra in size but had a metallic aftertaste, or were too salty from being processed with too much sea salt to cover the off taste. The Chinese product named Kaluga Hybrid looked and tasted as if it was dipped in heavy brown motor oil. Non-sturgeon fish eggs might be nice, like the Greek and Turkish tarama or the Italian botarga, but the taste is completely different.
Finally, there is farmed caviar from France that looks and tastes like the real thing. The brand name is Sturia, from the Sturgeon company of Bordeaux, and it comes in different varieties such as Vintage, Oscietra (Ossetra), Primeur, and a number of others. The three above mentioned were the ones me and my wife tasted in 30 gram tins.
We tasted the caviars using toasted rounds of baguette, sweet butter (we used Finlandia, unsalted) and only, very occasionally, a squeeze of lemon. The caviar was handled with traditional mother-of-pearl implements.
All three samples tasted as if they came from wild caught fish. The Vintage, the least expensive, tasted like pressed caviar; it was almost very dark grey, mild, with a slightly fishy aftertaste. After a few drops of lemon juice, it tasted exactly like pressed caviar. The Oscietra, was a bit saltier but tasted great with or without the lemon drops. The Primeur looked and tastes like small grain, wild-caught dark beluga. What is very interesting is the pricing. All three are priced at almost the same price level as caviar was 20 years ago, before the embargo.
The Sturia brand is currently available in New York City at one specialty store (Le District) and three restaurants (L’Appart, Bagatelle and The Waverly Inn).
We enjoyed our samples very much and washed them down with sparkling Falanghina flutes (Falanghina is an ancient Italian grape that in the last few years has been seeing a considerable production resurgence).
For further information please see: www.sturia.com/index_en.html
To your health!
© February 2017 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.