Monday, May 30, 2011

Illegal Poaching of Caviar - Not only in the Caspian Sea

Two Washington (State) men were recently arrested with 305 pounds of paddlefish roe in their rental car in Oklahoma. Thought the illegal poaching/selling of caviar was limited to the Caspian Sea? Think again!

Unfortunately the penalties seem to be minor - Maximum of one year and $10,000 in fines including restitution. Seems a bit soft when you consider how many paddlefish they had to illegally harvest to render 305 pounds of roe!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Franciacorta with Caviar - An Italian Alternative to Champagne

Franciacorta Wine is a sparkling wine from Northern Italy, produced in the region of Lombardy. Franciacorta is similar to Champagne, it's defining characteristic is the classical blend of Pinot Nero (10%), Pinot Bianco (5%), and Chardonnay (85%) grapes.

Aging takes anywhere from 17 to 30 months, with the latter being designated "vintage". After aging, Franciacorta is usually held for an additional 5-8 months before release and ultimately consumption. This results in a lighter taste than Champagne, however the youth of the Franciacorta provides for a rather rounded and complex style.

There are multiple types of Franciacorta, as one can imagine, including varieties specifically designed to rival their French neighbors (Champagne) which do away with Pinot Nero completely, leaving only Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco as the comprising grapes - this type of Franciacorta is commonly referred to as Franciacorta Saten.

Another notable characteristic of Franciacorta is it's dryness. Like Champagne, the dryness of Franciacorta serves as a perfect pairing with caviar. The salty overtones of caviar blend well with the dryness of wines such as Champagne and Franciacorta.

So next time you want to have some "bubbly" with your caviar, try out Franciacorta instead of Champagne. Like Champagne, Franciacorta also has labellings of "brut", "sec", and "extra sec" or "extra brut" - all of which mean dry or extra dry. I have tried both, but prefer "extra brut" when pairing Franciacorta with Caviar. The dryness of the wine does an excellent job of cleaning the palette before your next tasting of caviar. Which works great when sampling multiple types of caviar!

And lastly, since Franciacorta is not as well known (yet) as Champagne, you can usually find it for a fraction of the price when compared to Champagne. Meaning $15 to $25 buys you a good quality Franciacorta. So live a little, and enjoy a lot!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Great article about California caviar farms

The Wall Street Journal recently wrote a fantastic article about California caviar farms. The article details the history of Sturgeon Caviar in California, and explains the reasons why the caviar farming industry has become so large in recent years.

Caviar being processed at local California Caviar Farms, Caviar being cleaned, WSJ article, Caviar Express blog

The piece also includes a 15-photo slideshow showing how caviar is produced from the initial farming stages to the actual harvesting and packaging. The WSJ reported was definitely in for a treat as he was allowed to watch and photograph the process from start to finish.

Check out the article here. Also of interest is the history of how caviar came to be in California, and why the farms in California produce 85% of the entire Sturgeon farm production in the United States.