Sturgeon weighing at L'Esturgeonnière, in the Arcachon basin, where Perlita caviar is made -
Mickaël Bosredon / 20Minutes
On the Aquitaine Perlita caviar production site, we are feverishly awaiting announcements concerning the conditions of deconfinement.
Traditionally, the aquaculture farm sells some 3 tonnes of caviar for the end of the year celebrations.
But between closed restaurateurs and pending resellers, the sector is at a standstill at the moment.
At the Esturgeonnière, at Teich on the Arcachon Basin (Gironde), we are in the starting blocks.
Ready to launch a season that is desperately slow to start.
“Normally, at this time of the year there is an excitement in our area, the phones ring, we go back and forth throughout the day… So many things that we do not observe at all to this day , it's abnormally calm ”laments the director of the Aquitaine Perlita caviar production site, Michel Berthommier.
Caviar is indeed the ultimate holiday product.
"We achieve three-quarters of our turnover during the last two months of the year, which represents for us between 2.8 tonnes and 3.2 tonnes" continues the producer.
However, between confinement and the uncertainty weighing on the Christmas and New Year's holidays, the production site is currently almost at a standstill.
"The large distribution has both feet on the brake"
“Since 2015 we have regularly suffered disrupted end of the year, there have been social events in particular, observes Michel Berthommier, but 2020 combines ambient anxiety and absolute uncertainty as to what we will be allowed to do.
With only one virtual certainty, that of the absence of catering, which is one of our main outlets.
At the same time, supermarkets - which has become the number one player in the marketing of caviar - has both feet on the brakes, for fear of ending up with unsold items at the end of the year.
However, it is the barometer of the sector.
Finally, the rest of our customers - grocers, wine merchants, fishmongers… - are suspicious… ”
The combination of all these factors is "formidable" deplores the producer.
However, he wants to keep hope.
“People are going to make up their minds quite late, it is not necessarily catastrophic, and we can even assume that the pattern that is emerging of limited festive gatherings would be rather favorable to our product.
It suffices that we have two weeks, three weeks of good sales, to save the day.
»The fall harvest, which has just ended, has been prepared, packaged, and is now waiting to be sold ...
About 10 years for a female to give caviar
The leading consumer of caviar in the world, France now produces around 40 tonnes per year.
"People have understood the fact that caviar is no longer Russian or Iranian, and that it now comes from aquaculture farms - especially French - with quality products" assures Michel Berthommier.
At the same time, prices have fallen over the past thirty years, even if caviar is still sold in stores between 150 euros and 300 euros per 100 grams, depending on the weight of the famous black pearls ...
Visit of L'Esturgeonniere, the Aquitaine Perlita caviar production site, in Le Teich, where 4 tonnes of #caviar are produced each year but the site is unusually calm at the moment, due to the uncertainties linked to the festivals of end of the year ... pic.twitter.com/Scp8dF4o0N
- mibosredon (@mibosredon) November 23, 2020
It must be said that the product requires patience to be developed.
"It takes about ten years between the time you put your first sturgeon in the water, and the time the females give caviar," explains the director of the Esturgeonnière.
The site produces some 300 tonnes of fish, or 4 tonnes of caviar a year.
“It comes exclusively from Siberian sturgeon, even though there are 24 species of sturgeon on the planet which are all likely to produce caviar.
"Caviar is a product that is self-sufficient"
The very elaboration of the caviar also takes place on the Teich site.
Once the fish have reached maturity, they are opened to remove the gonads, clusters of oocytes a few millimeters in diameter.
“We will sift these bunches, rinse them, salt them and put them in a box.
It's very fast: between the moment the fish enters the lab and the moment the box of caviar is closed, it takes about 1 hour 30 minutes. ”The duration of consumption of Perlita caviar is 12 months.
Michel Berthommier director of the Perlita caviar production site - Mickaël Bosredon / 20Minutes
For a powerful caviar, choose the earliest possible production date.
"A young caviar will rather offer airy flavors which can go on the dry fruit, the hazelnut or the walnut" details Michel Berthommier.
Regarding the tasting, the producer believes that “caviar is a product that is self-sufficient: it can be eaten with a spoon or on a slice of bread or a homemade blinis.
"And if you still want to work it or add it to a preparation" we can, as long as it is served at the last minute because the caviar does not tolerate being reheated.
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