Black sturgeon caviar is not the one extracted in the wild through a legal pathway at present. The fishing ban was imposed by the UN Convention on the Protection of the World's Water Resources and Endangered Species of Fish back in the late 20th century. It was renewed in 2007 and supported by the five states surrounding the Caspian Sea, the world's largest sturgeon habitat. Over 140 sturgeon fisheries (aquaculture) have been initiated in France, Germany, Italy, the United States, Canada, China, Uruguay, Spain, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and other countries aimed at extracting black sturgeon caviar from sturgeon species in the wake of the sturgeon ban.
The major suppliers of black sturgeon caviar for Lemberg Kaviar are the best fisheries in Europe and Asia, the top producers of black sturgeon caviar from aquaculture worldwide. These fisheries and the Lemberg Caviar House supply their caviar to the German airline Deutsche Lufthansa AG, as well as to the top Parisian seafood restaurants. The 'Amur Royal' is the best-selling, most sought-after variety of Lemberg Kaviar black sturgeon caviar, and one that is truly valued by connoisseurs and devotees alike.
'Amur Royal' is the caviar of a natural hybrid of the Amur sturgeon and the Kaluga, a freshwater fish of the beluga genus of the sturgeon family (lat. Acipenser schrenckii x Huso dauricus). This species of sturgeon has evolved in the natural environment by interbreeding two species of sturgeon in the wild in the lower reaches of the Amur River.
The 'Amur Royal' sturgeon caviar is coarse-grained with the most delicate shell and a rich, balanced taste. The eggs reach a diameter of three to four millimetres and are of the same size as beluga caviar.
Sturgeon caviar is a natural product, so the shades of dark colour may vary between types of sturgeon caviar.
Sturgeon caviar can come in many different colours, ranging from dark grey to dark brown and golden. As the fish ages, the colour of its roe changes to light amber and it takes on an utterly subtle smell, described as 'creamy nut'.
Kaluga (lat. Huso dauricus) is a freshwater fish of the beluga genus belonging to the sturgeon family.
The big, shiny eggs, which can be up to 4 mm in diameter, are usually dark greyish-green in color, but other colors can appear depending on the age of fish.
The Kaluga is a long-living fish, spawning only when it reaches 16-17 years of age. It won't be able to spawn again until 5 years later. This factor accounts for why caviar of this fish is a rare and costly product.
An adult fish averages 3 metres in length and weighs about 100 kg. A rare specimen was once caught, though, reaching the age of 55, weighing about a tonne and measuring up to 5 metres in length.
The exquisite, soft taste and melting texture of kaluga caviar is much like that of beluga caviar. Perfect for special festivities or as a memorable gift. Not only is kaluga caviar the largest among sturgeon lovers, it is also believed among delicacy lovers to have the softest taste.
Beluga caviar is the highest priced type of caviar, an icon of luxury and exclusivity. The large eggs shimmer in all shades of black, have a thin shell and a particularly rich taste that leaves a pleasant and fresh aftertaste.
The beluga is the largest freshwater fish that has lived on Earth for almost 200 million years and, like all other sturgeons, has learned to adapt to many different habitats.
Beluga caviar ranks first in taste and is much favoured by gourmets. A kilogram of this kind of caviar is sold in the United States and Western Europe for as little as €2,100. The large eggs (up to 4 mm) are grey, dark grey or silver in colour with a subtle nutty flavour.
The most costly beluga caviar is the Iranian-made 'golden caviar'. The colour is golden white or white with a yellowish hue. It comes from albino beluga, and the fish itself must be very old, as much as a century old. Not many of these ancient 'goldfish' are left on Earth.
Sadly, it is still a widespread stereotype that 'wild' caviar is the only real, healthy and tasty one. And aquaculture caviar is only a likeness of black caviar. That, alas, is the deepest misconception of all.
Even with the moratorium in place, the scale of poaching and the illegal black caviar market is many times higher than that of lawful production.
Sturgeon species are bottom-feeding fish, picking up food right at the bottom that collects harmful substances, industrial waste and toxins. For this reason, 'wild' caviar is not the cleanest product in terms of green credentials right now. The way caviar from wild fish is extracted must be taken into account besides the state of water they live in and the quality of food they eat. Every time a poacher goes to a river, they will risk being caught by the inspectors. The nets spread out are therefore checked every few days. A sturgeon may be left musty in the nets for a week before it is found and the spawn extracted. The decay products caused by rotting will get into both the meat of the fish and the caviar. This process takes its toll on the quality of the eggs. Poachers add potent banned preservatives to conceal the bad odours and keep the product safe over long distances when in transit, often freezing the caviar more than once.
As a rule, the black caviar extracted illegally is packaged by artisanal methods with no observance of the basic sanitary and epidemiological standards, using prohibited higher-hazard food preservatives, and then traffickers arrange for its transportation to major cities in Russia, the CIS and the Baltic states. Caviar can travel in suitcases and bags masked as normal passenger luggage, in glass jars or even just in plastic bags. The best buy is when you choose legal black caviar from sturgeon fisheries. Again, we wish to address the most common myth about it being 'unnatural'. When sturgeons are kept under conditions that are the closest possible to natural habitats, and when they are fed the appropriate food, then the caviar of these sturgeons and wild sturgeons will be exactly the same in terms of biochemical properties. Caviar extraction techniques now allow caviar to be taken when the grains are at their optimum stage of maturity, avoiding the under-, over- or sub-standard caviar in the end.
When you buy black sturgeon caviar from aquaculture fish farms, you help saving the wild sturgeon stocks, now close to extinction.
All Lemberg Kaviar brand sturgeon caviar is European CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) certified. The additional CITES number label indicates the supplier, time and place of catch. What's more, a CITES label guarantees wholesalers and consumers that the sturgeon the caviar comes from has been caught by legal means.