Remember the days of simple caviar? The best caviar came from the Caspian Sea – no question. There were three sizes and only a handful of grades- Osetra, Sevruga, and Beluga. Russian was great, and Iranian was the best. Need an inexpensive banquet or garnish option? Buy Paddlefish or Hackleback. Done… That was it! Other than trusting your caviar connection and bringing your wallet, it was all plain and simple. Over the past 5 years, the caviar world has changed completely, but that is not a bad thing! Caviar today is excellent, accessible, sustainable, and best of all, AFFORDABLE!! It’s complicated… but have no fear. Here are a few of SeafoodS.com’s quick and easy guidelines to purchasing the world’s finest caviar without any headaches. We are here to be your trusted advisor!
1) Most Caviar Today Is Farmed – It’s OK. Today’s farms are state-of-the-art. Sustainability practices use incredible attention to detail and each year’s production carries its own special flavor profile. Each individual harvest is hand-graded to exact specifications.
2) Know The Species – Caviar’s branded labeling today can be confusing. Read the label. Which species is it? There are only a few. Keep in mind, all imports from Russia and Iran have been banned here in the US. Be wary of any label with the word “Caspian” on it. The same goes for wild Chinese imports…
3) Traceability – Every importer is required by Federal Law to have a CITES Permit to guarantee species, A “Certificate of Origin” that guarantees where the caviar was harvested, and a “Labeling Report” that shows the harvest date. You should be able to trace the container of caviar you have by a “lot number” which refers back to the supplier’s legal documentation. This is also required by the FDA in case of any food related contamination or recall.
4) Understand Caviar Aging – Much of the domestic caviar produced is best eaten fresh and is only properly enjoyed in the first few weeks of harvest. Most imported caviar species benefit greatly from aging and can be aged for up to a year. All caviar must have a “Best Consumed By” date as would any perishable fresh fish or packaged food.
5) Caviar Options Change From Year To Year – Have a favorite year of wine from a specific vineyard? Caviar today is much the same. This year your best gueldenstaedtti may come from an Italian farm and may be most notable when properly aged for 7 months. Next year, the same species may be completely different.
Here’s the bottom line- It is important to trust your caviar partner. Your partner controls the accuracy of your label, checks that the aging techniques employed are appropriately managed, and tastes each year’s production to determine the season’s top picks. At the end of the day, your caviar partner will help guide you through this purchase. Let a few of our ideas here at SeafoodS.com ease your mind when selecting your caviar purchase this season.