caviar produced in the world comes from sturgeon caught in the Caspian Sea by Russian and Iranian fishermen. The remaining 5% is produced in China, the USA, France and also Italy. Widespread opinion holds that the most valuable caviar is the Iranian. This is because the Caspian Sea is deeper on the Iranian side, never freezing, crossed by currents that oxygenate its waters, with a gravely bottom as opposed to the muddier bottom on the Russian side. In Iran, female sturgeon fishing is under the supervision of Cites, the international regulatory body overseeing its quantity and quality. For this reason caviar lovers widely agree that the best caviar is Iranian. The sturgeon’s preferred habitat is in much deeper and warmer waters than those of the Iranian banks of the Caspian. So the Iranian fishermen set up their nets far from shore, allowing them to catch the females before they begin their journey to the river mouths that feed into the Caspian. The sturgeon is then anesthetized and the caviar is extracted by an entirely manual process which includes caesarean, the separation of the eggs by dimension and then cleaning. Once the eggs have been selected and categorized they are salted and packaged. Packing is a very delicate operation. In fact, after having filled the containers, the lid is put on with utmost caution; light pressure is applied with the hand so that any entrapped air exits the container. An airtight rubber seal is then finally put on the lid. The oily liquid that usually comes out of the containers during storage is a sign of its freshness. caspianmonarque.com
The Russians, meanwhile, are forced to wait for the females to arrive at the mouth of the Volga to fish them, by which time the eggs have matured further, losing many of the qualities that are said to make the Iranian caviar better (crunchy skin, defined grain etc). It is also worth noting that the Iranian method of anesthetizing the fish allows it to be brought to the collection points where the caesarean is performed alive, so as to ensure maximum freshness of the eggs. Sturgeon fishing season starts in February and ends in May, but the best quality caviar is produced in the spring.Although Russian caviar is more commercialized, the uniformity of the grain, the crunchy skin, the dodecagonal shape (as opposed to spherical) and a much defined grain (not sticky) of the Iranian caviar render it the preferred caviar among chefs worldwide.
Fresh caviar can be recognized by odour, which carries a hint of the sea in it, and its delicate taste. Any fishy odour or spicy taste immediately signals that the caviar is not fresh. The grain must be well defined, in the shape of a dodecagon, not sticky and without any surrounding liquid. The tin should be tightly packed, without any empty space under the lid. If the caviar is not fresh or has been exposed to heat the rupturing of the grains causes liquid to form and the quality to diminish.From a dietetic point of view, it is a nutritive food, rich in proteins, fats, phospholipids and lecithin. It provides 280 Kcal. per 100 g of product. contains considerable amounts of the vitamins A, C, PP, B2, B4 and B12 as well as both folic and pantothenic acids. As for proteins it contains arginine, istidine, leucine, lysine, and methionine all essential amino acids.The most expensive and very rare caviar is the Almas, packaged in 24 karat gold tins and sold at up to $24,000 per kg! Its whitish colour is due to the age of the sturgeon from which it is harvested and its flavour is marvellous.