The caviar industry has long been one of catching and then harvesting the caviar roe from wild sturgeon – Sevruga, Oscietra, or Beluga sturgeon, for example – from the Caspian Sea (and other waters in the region). These fish, which take a long time to mature and which grow to an enormous size (especially the Beluga), were fished – and polluted – almost to extinction in the late 20th century. This led to several bans and strict limits being imposed at the point of production, in international trade, and in import. Beluga, in particular, remains endangered.
In the wake of these strict limits on production, in the 21st century the sustainable farming of sturgeon for caviar has flourished, and HUSO – Cavier de Neuvic is a modern, hygienic, state of the art facility on the River Isle (and historic source of caviar in France), producing caviar of very high quality.
Baeri “Signature” caviar, is the smallest-grained and darkest caviar of the three we tried. It has superb intensity and would be my choice for caviar to serve as part of fine cooking – to serve with lobster or prawns, on potatoes or scrambled eggs. It also worked really well with a little crème fraiche on blinis. A little goes a long way, so this is also a great choice if you are preparing some canapés for guests. It worked really well with the rich fruitiness and fullness of the 2003 Philipponnat Clos des Goisses.
Oscetra caviar had slightly larger grains and a greyer colour. The flavour was more delicate than the Baeri, but also much more earthy and subtley complex. It was a dream with the two tightest, most focused of the Champagnes in our flight – the two 100% chardonnay ‘blanc des blancs’ 2004 Taittinger Comtes de Champagnes and 1995 Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires.
Beluga caviar is the most luxuriant, and rest assured this is a sustainable French farmed product. The grains here were slightly larger than the Oscetra. The taste was deeply umami and very long on the palate. Both its creamy richness and deep savoury complexity (and hint of meaty sweetness) reminded me of long-aged Jamon Iberico de Bellota. Frankly, I simply cannot suggest any kind of food match here or wine accompaniment. I focused solely on these little grains of luxury and ate them straight from the (mother or pearl) spoon! I suggest you do too, together with someone deserving of the treat (and chase the experience with a shot of vodka from the freezer!).
We have imported this caviar, just freshly harvested and packed, by air, and so it still has a very good shelf life – to 2 Aug 2018. Keep it in the fridge (do not freeze it!). It is available at our shop now.