Caviar of the Caspian Sea
A princess story
Somewhere in the early twentieth century the sturgeon Acipenser sturio existed in the estuary of the Gironde, the Dordogne, and the Garonne. These were areas where the females would go to spawn and Legend says that a Russian princess saw that the fishermen of Gironde would toss the eggs from the fish they caught back into the sea.
She told them that in her own country those eggs were extremely expensive and that the fishermen were wasting a great deal of potential wealth. They were missing out on fortunes. As a result, in 1920 caviar production started right there on the banks of the Gironde, and now it provides up to 5 tons of caviar per year.
What about the protection of the species?
The unfortunate truth is that sturgeon are often caught indiscriminately in this process and this ultimately led to the disappearance of the species in the waters of the Gironde. And, as a result, fishing was prohibited in 1982.
At the same time, the Cemagref Bordeaux (Centre of Agricultural Machinery, Rural Engineering, Water and Forestry) launched a program designed to repopulate the area with sturgeon. They did this through cooperation with several fish farmers, which includes Sturgeon, with the effort geared toward breeding and reproducing Siberian sturgeon in captivity.
It took only a few years of patient care for Aquitaine caviar to come back to life.
Caviar d’Aquitaine : new muse
Regions such as Russia, Kazakhstan, Iran, and Armenia were the ones to launch caviar as a product, but the era of these countries ruling the niche are long over.
Because of over-fishing and smuggling, the sale of caviar was banned in 2008, with wild sturgeon being well protected. However, France has managed to pioneer sturgeon farming, which has allowed them to produce approximately 25 tonnes of caviar each year. And that caviar is sustainable and extremely well regarded in some of the top restaurants throughout the world.
In the Aquitaine region, producing nearly all of that 25 tonnes per year, there are six of the eight total caviar producers in France. Sturia is one of those producers located in the area, leaving only two producers outside of the region.
Aquitaine produces caviar that is expert level, well refined, and delicious, which means that the reputation of the region only continues to grow. With continued international competition, the Association Caviar d’Aquitaine was born. This organization is designed to manage and promote the origin of the product and started in July 2013. But they continued on. In November they actually created a trademark and are now seeing PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status. This would put them on par with Marennesd’Oleron oysters and Cotes d’Armor scallops.
Achieving the PGI would be based on the overall legitimacy of this historical area of French caviar. And would allow them to continue defending and promoting their traditional process. With over 20 years of experience behind it, the process has provided excellence from the beginning. And it’s expected to garner some very strict specifications soon, which will ensure that the high quality of the caviar remains intact.
The trademark would cover the geographical area of what is considered the ‘new’ Aquitaine. All fish are born and farmed within this region and they originate from spawners that are also within the area. This means that from birth to farming to harvest, the sturgeon are located within the Aquitaine region. Even the eggs that are collected are processed in Aquitaine. This means even more integrity and quality for the process and ensures traceability. Not to mention quality control, expertise and know-how are monitored all the way through the process.
This specific type of caviar, from Aquitaine, comes from the unfertilized eggs of sturgeon from the species Acipenser Baerii. Oocytes (unfertilized eggs) receive low concentration dry salting, which can be done either with preservatives or without. What’s most important, however, is that these eggs are completely untreated, non-ovulated, and unpasteurized, which creates the best quality and flavor of caviar.
The overall environment that the fish are raised in is required to meet strict standards for saturation, pH, flow, and density, and all sturgeon are fed granules. The food is also not allowed to contain GMO’s or PAP’s (processed animal proteins).