Sturgeon have swum the Bordeaux river basin as long as Sauvignon Blanc
have rooted down the region’s vineyards. They make an excellent pairing, yet this duo has long been overlooked.
Even taken separately, this is true. Magret de canard and foie gras are de riguer at the Bordelais table. Though Bordeaux is nestled between two major rivers and sits on the Atlantic, aquatic edibles are a second thought. Yet Sturia, the world’s third largest producer of caviar, is based in Bordeaux.
Though it wasn’t always the case, Bordeaux Blanc today takes back seat to everything rouge. Until 1969, more white was produced than red there. Now, white wine production there seems to evaporate with each vintage. Changes in drinking habits (the French are drinking more rosé, the UK is drinking less expensive Sauvignon-Sémillon blends from Gascony
, the rest of the world is hooked on Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc) account for most of this. However, so does a fungal disease called Esca, which is quietly but quickly killing up to 10% of Sauvignon Blanc
vineyards every year.
Photo credit: wikimedia commons
So, it is a fine time to discover and support this local duo. One key to pairing is the age of the caviar and the style of the white. Caviar becomes darker in color as it ages, just like white wine. So, pair lighter-colored, younger caviar with paler, early-drinking whites. Age-worthy white wines have more complexity, just like fuller-flavored, older caviar.
Another tip is that older caviar is saltier because the eggs have absorbed more of the curing salt. The salt’s savoriness works well with older wines with a substantial proportion of Sémillon
because Sémillon favors non-fruit flavors like hay and wax. Sémillon also provides Bordeaux whites
with a creaminess that absorbs the caviar’s sharp saltiness.
Another key to matching is the size of the egg. Larger eggs, like those from Osetra sturgeon, provide a rich, mouthfilling texture that works better barrel-aged whites.
Here are my wine suggestions for the three different styles of Sturia Caviar. I hope this combo should become a new classic!