Genus Acipenser constitutes the largest specimen within the Acipenseriformes order, including approximately eighteen of the twenty-seven recognised sturgeon species. The word “Acipenser” translates from Latin to English as “sturgeon.” They are considered “living fossils”, sharing many morphological and biological features with ancestral fish.
Present-Day sturgeons have changed little since pre-historic times, perhaps due to their perseverance and relatively insufficient stimuli for change. Sturgeons have very few natural predators since they can develop into phenomenal sizes. The crustacean species, upon which the sturgeon’s diet depends, have also varied little. The role of the sturgeon in the aquatic ecosystem has been blessed with resilience, and thus been exempted from alterations over millions of years.
Wild Caviar – Glorious Past of the Caspian Sea
For centuries now, sturgeons have been caught and been of the utmost interest from an economic, gastronomic and cultural perspective. To monarchs’ delight, the “Royal Prerogative” guarantees the possession of any caught sturgeons, whilst their delectable Roe (may only be called Caviar after completion of salting process) was championed as the ultimate, fitting luxury for Kings and Queens in those Halcyon Days. Furthermore, the Sturgeon’s Meat, which is customarily cured and smoked, established its gastronomic presence ever since the 18th century and was popularised as “ZAKUSKA” – an elegant array of Russian Hors d’Oeuvres quickly spanning across Western Europe.
Sturgeon’s Legendary Past and Magnificent Present
Traditionally, only two Nations have been major Caviar-Exporters:
The former Soviet Union (USSR) and Iran. Wild sturgeons underwent a dramatic decline and became rare and scarce as early as the beginning of the 20th Century. They were driven to extinction, not because of accidents or their failure to adapt to natural changes but as a result of Intense human interference, such as construction of water dams, restricting the sea’s fresh water input, thus impeding the sturgeon’s migrations. The little remaining water was contaminated by agricultural biocides and industrial wastes. The Caspian Sea’s Pollution, due to oil exploration, further decimates the Sturgeons’ prehistoric habitats. The few surviving adults subsequently face vigorous Over-Fishing and Poaching without the opportunity of a Life-Line to perpetuate. Re-population has thus been severely curtailed with human activities being the major contributory element to the demise of wild sturgeons.
It is of paramount importance and of the utmost urgency to now call for and to develop, engineer and implement strategies for a conservation culture to aid and abet this species’ recovery in their natural habitats.
In short: The sturgeon’s regeneration is our responsibility.
Published on Apr 10, 2015
|Aquaculture Improvement Techniques in natural environments have facilitated the Re-Population of the following sturgeon species:|
This is ‘The Celebrated Sturgeon Species’. A wild specimen was caught, measuring well over 9 m and weighing a massive 1400 Kg. This species carries steel blue to grey and black skin markings with light ventral and white creamy bony scutes down its back. Its flesh and its most precious “Beluga Caviar” represent an attractive an undertaking as the actual perpetuation of this rare species.
Being the second largest species in the Acipenser family, this is an ancient, freshwater, bottom dwelling feeding fish and characterised by a long and large cylindrical body, a subconical snout and four Barbels (beard-like) located at the base of its head. Reaching maturity within 10 years, the Transmontanus produces flawless, large sized roe in a solid dark chrome appearance.
This is a true representative of the Acipenseriformes family. Aquaculture offsprings are reared to an average of 1.25m and rank second in growth rate and longevity. The rare diamond variety has beautiful star-like markings but they are invariably lost, turning grey-black in colour during adulthood. The Gueldenstaedtii medium sized roes’ bear a delicious buttery and aromatic flavour, featuring ample colouration choices from medium yellow, olive green via hazelnut brown to anthracite.
The Siberian Sturgeon is the most popular and by far the easiest aquaculture species to breed. Resilient and tough, with a healthy and rapid rise to adulthood, this sturgeon will reach a maximum length of 1.2m in clean and comfortable aquaculture surroundings. The skin is brown-grey and black with the underside in contrasts of white. The end of their nose features a white tip. Siberian Sturgeon caviar roes are of a medium size, typified by a deep mahogany-brown colour with a velvety taste.
Best known as the Stellatus or Stary Sturgeon and easily recognised by its elongated nose and head. This part of its anatomy represents 25% of the total body length. This sturgeon keeps its beautiful markings throughout its life. Reaching a maximum of 1.50 m in the wild but considerably less in an aquaculture environment. All Stellate Sturgeons are keen jumpers. Despite its smaller physical attributes, roe remains small and graceful, appearing in luminous metallic-grey and with a memorable, fresh sea-salt flavour.
|The starlet is a slow-growing sturgeon of a very tolerant nature. In captivity it measures 0,60 – 0,90 m, reaching maturity over a period of ten years. Distinctive features are white edge markings with lines along its back to the pectoral and front fins. The small and light blue-greyish roes set it apart from the Stellatus|
|Published on Jan 14, 2015|
In response to concerns that trade of sturgeon products might be detrimental to the species’ survival, twenty-three species were entered into the “Appendices of C.I.T.E.S.”, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the International Regulatory Body of worldwide endangered Species.
The Appendices of C.I.T.E.S. represents an agreement between governments whose members mirror those of the United Nations (UN). The STURGEON and with it CAVIAR, was entered, listed and came into force as an endangered and thus protected Species as of the 1st of April 1998.
The Sturgeon’s C.I.T.E.S. listing aims to reduce and eventually completely eliminate the illegal trade of caviar on the world market. All Acipenseriformes Species are controlled by various regulatory and enforcement means, such as Quota Control, Permits, Traceability and Coded Labelling. It is hoped that these implementation and enforcement Structures will strongly contribute towards the conservation of sturgeon stocks, but in particular will aid the survival of remaining wild sturgeon stocks in the Caspian Sea. It is also the World’s largest landlocked Sea and home to Six Sturgeon species which collectively used to provide in excess of 90% of the world’s annual caviar yields.
It all began, with the Beluga Sturgeon as catalyst, being isolated as the Caspian Sea’s most affected and endangered Species. This triggered during the following years a number of temporary Import and Export Bans by both Bodies, i.e. the ‘US Fish and Wildlife Services’ and also C.I.T.E.S..
However, the continual decline of wild sturgeon clearly became untenable. This resulted in C.I.T.E.S. taking the unprecedented step in January 2006 in suspending trading of all wild Sturgeon Fish and Caviar, in particular, Beluga Sturgeon Caviar from the Caspian Sea Basin, the Black Sea, the lower Danube River basin, and the Amur River basin in China. A year later, despite applied relaxation quotas to a number of species, the suspension forged profound implications to Connoisseurs and Vendors’ perspective on the ethics of Wild Caviar and its Sustainability.
Aquaculture, the extraordinary present and future – Evolution of Sturgeon
In Developing, Taming and Progressing this Technique over the past 50 Years, Aquaculture has now proved to be a most sustainable, mature and feasible route for a number of sturgeon species. Princesse d’Isenbourg et Cie has been a forefront contributor in supporting the development of productive aquaculture and its refinement activities. The Association with world leading sturgeon aquaculture facilities has singled out and empowered Princesse d’Isenbourg et Cie as the Authoritative Purveyor of the finest caviar in recent years.
Published on Nov 20, 2014
|“The trouble always is,” explains James Bond to his female companion,
“not how to get enough caviar, but how to get enough toast with it.”
That might have been true in 1953, when 007 was getting his first outing in the novel Casino Royale.
Today the reverse is true: toast may be plentiful, but caviar, at least the kind Bond ordered for dinner, is in crisis.
The sturgeon has been around for a couple of hundred million years, and over time this fish and its roe—which, when brought into contact with salt, becomes caviar—have caught the attention of everyone from Aristotle to Peter the Great to Ian Fleming. But this year there has been no caviar from the Caspian Sea, at least no legal caviar.
Poaching, pollution, and overfishing have caused once plentiful stocks to dwindle to levels that have caught the attention of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. This year the shortage is especially severe, thanks to an administrative cock-up. For CITES to agree to caviar quotas, all the producing countries around the Caspian have to meet, and, according to Peter Rebeiz, CEO of a caviar supplier in UK, the Kazakhstan delegate missed the meeting.
Nevertheless, Rebeiz remains sanguine. That’s because he has 160,000 sturgeon sitting in a series of pools in Bordeaux. Any day now, the first of his autumn crop of farmed caviar will be available in stores.
The rising status of farmed caviar is the biggest thing to happen to the international caviar market since 1957, when the Shah of Iran decided that he would make his own rather than sell his country’s sturgeon to the Russians. So strong was the image of Russian caviar that “it took about 20 years before Iran got a foothold,” says Rebeiz.
Now the process of reeducating the consumer is starting again, with gourmets being told that the farmed stuff is of a consistently higher quality. The absence of any caviar from the Caspian this year has given farmed caviar a clear run.
Few foods are as evocative as caviar. Along with Rolls-Royces, top hats, and champagne, it is an essential accessory of the pantomime plutocrat—shorthand for a life of sybaritic indulgence. There are three basic types: sevruga (acipenser), made with the smallest eggs; osetra, the middle tier in terms of size and price; and beluga, the king of caviar, shiny anthracite beads that can command prices of more than $16,000 per kilo.
And while there may well be epicures who prize them for their flavor alone, these oily black or golden gray beads are most definitely an acquired taste. But for most of us, part of the thrill is the price; we are feeding our minds and our vanity as much as our bodies. Indeed, the majority of people eating caviar see it as akin to carrying an Hermès handbag. As such, the romance of the product is as important as the flavor. So while farmed caviar may indeed be of higher quality, the notion that it is commercially produced in the EU and conforms to an ISO number, rather than wrested from the quasi-mythical Caspian Sea, is a tough barrier to overcome.
In an effort to see how this obstacle is being tackled, I attended a caviar tasting in a private Mayfair club, arranged by Gunther Corsten-Gerhards, cofounder of the London-based company Princesse d’Isenbourg et Cie, which has been importing caviar for the last 20 years. Although Corsten-Gerhards started out distributing Iranian caviar in the U.K., he converted a decade ago to farmed eggs. “We buy from South America, Eastern Europe, from EU countries, and even the United States,” he says candidly. Farmed caviar allows for greater variations in flavor and appearance; in a way aquaculture brings caviar closer to wine, with its look and taste affected by geography and genus. Indeed, varieties range from the accessible Guba, which offers a grayish, midsize bead with a smooth and pleasant rather than overpowering taste, to the creamy, turmeric-colored pure gueldenstaedtii.
The youngish, affluent audience listened attentively as Corsten-Gerhards wove the tale of the sturgeon, this living fossil of a fish that can survive for up to two centuries and weigh as much as one metric ton when fully mature. Inevitably, there were skeptics who questioned whether this caviar was as good as the “real” thing from the Caspian. Corsten-Gerhards patiently explained that in blind tastings conducted with chefs and so on, farmed caviar outperforms the wild stuff. Small tasting pots were handed around, followed by the silence that is the greatest mark of approval of any foodstuff.
But what clinched it was the price. Princesse d’Isenbourg et Cie could sell these fish eggs well below market price. It seems that keen pricing can help overcome any residual resistance to the farmed variety.
For now, with quantities of farmed caviar still relatively small (bear in mind that the biggest sturgeon takes a minimum of 15 years to reach spawning age) and legal wild caviar next to nonexistent, caviar retains its allure, but the past has a warning for today’s caviar farmers. It is said that in pre-Prohibition New York, caviar was so abundant that barkeepers gave it away, hoping its saltiness would boost beer sales. Somehow I don’t think even James Bond could carry off the line “The trouble always is not how to get enough caviar, but how to get enough beer with it.”
Published on Sep 06, 2014
Article initially published in Newsweek.com
Direct link: http://www.newsweek.com/raising-caviar-farm-81111
|More words have been written about the “Prince of Wines” than the number of bottles lying in the CRAYERES beneath the chalk-rich soil of the very region from where the name was taken.
The art of Viticulture Science has been part of this region ever since Roman Times and been expecting the day when the use of a cork as a stopper was re-discovered by visiting Spanish monks.
But it was the ingenuity of the Benedictine Monk’s “DOM PERIGNON” blending skills in creating a sparkling white wine of a consistent high quality from a melange of red and white grapes.
Champagne’s international claim to fame not only lies in its long history but also in its unique Orchestration of Grapes. Growing at a perfect height and latitude, it is the blending of “Pinot Noir”, “Chardonnay” and “Pinot Meunier” grapes, produced under the stewardship of some of the world’s most experienced Wine-Makers, that this sparkling wine has not only become a palate’s delight, but its exceptional bouquet with its colour, sparkle and unique flavour resonating to each of the five senses.
In the quest of assembling a range of Fine Foods and Gastronomique Delights, Champagne was a “sine qua non” for the Princesse d’Isenbourg.
It is often said that a Champagne House may be judged by the quality of its Non-Vintage Cuvee. It is indeed the employed timeless skills which create a beautiful blend of the finest grapes whereby “Pinot Noir” lends structure and body, “Pinot Meunier” balance and “Chardonnay” being the inimitable Contributor of Finesse.
Beyond Non-Vintage there are however a host of other Champagne Categories, inter alia BLANC de BLANCS, ROSE, VINTAGE, and the GRAND CUVEE VINTAGES… It should nevertheless be said and noted that Champagne is essentially a “Thirst-Quencher”, thus not a wine in need of simultaneous food consumption. A Non-Vintage, Non-Rose Champagne will therefore always best serve this purpose. Rose, Vintage and Grand Cuvees Champagnes are simply too serious and weighty and in this respect tend to loose their stamp of originality.
That is to say that even a Non-Vintage should not have escaped and undergone a decent ageing process. A good spell calls for three years, known in the trade as “A Good Landing Age”. A telling yardstick upon de-corking will show a severely diminished circumference at the cork’s base, always bearing in mind that its original is always cylindrical…
Of paramount importance nonetheless is the “Dosage”, i.e. replenishing the bottle Neck’s Void after “Degorgement”. This should entirely consist of no more than the Base Wine. In this fashion, retention of the Wine’s matchless Originality is assured though already and firmly expressed in its worldwide Respect and patented name: “CHAMPAGNE”.
Published on Jul 23, 2014
We do hold regular Caviar Tastings
for up to ten participants
~ Kindly contact us for further details ~
Princesse d’Isenbourg et Cie Ltd.
2 Bard Road, Holland Park, London, W10 6TP, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 208 960 3600 Fax: +44 (0) 208 960 3830