LEARNING SOMETHING NEW EVERY DAY
I was among several journalists attending a seminar of Taittinger Champagnes and Calvisius Caviar. There was a note at the bottom of the Calvisius caviar: [It] should be served using mother of pearl spoons because metal could change the taste [of those wonderful salty little black eggs]. Caviar should be refrigerated (not frozen) until served and it should be served in a small basin or a crystal goblet immersed in shaved ice. It should be accompanied by champagne/white dry white wine or premium vodka.
BUT IF YOU’RE . . .
In the late 1960s my parents were traveling throughout Eastern Europe and were fortunate enough to visit Iran, where they picked up a large tin of Beluga caviar to take home. But crossing the border between Iraq and Iran they were told they couldn’t bring the caviar with them. My mother tells me that she and my father sat on the side of the road, opened the tin of caviar and with a spoon (material unknown, probably metal), ate the whole pound of caviar. So much for mother of pearl spoons and a crystal goblet in ice.
Knowing my parents, they ordered Champagne as soon as they could.
GETTING A TASTE
My tasting that evening in New York started with Champagne Taittinger Brut La Francaise NV with the Calvisius Tradition Prestige Caviar. According to the notes, Champagne was sourced from 35 different crus over several harvests (40% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 25% Pinot Meunier) and aged for three to four years (twice the legal requirement). Rather than taste the caviar with a mother of pearl spoon, we were taught to spoon it onto the back of the hand to detract from any other taste the spoon may impart. The white sturgeon caviar is smooth and slightly in nutty flavor with a medium firm texture and an elegant aroma. Retail price for 28 grams is $75. The champagne was bright golden straw yellow, and the bouquet was powerful – peach, flowers, honey, vanilla and slightly buttery.
We were brought through several tastings, the next to last of which was Calvsius Caviar Siberian Sturgeon, native to the fluvial basins of Siberia and the Baikal Lake basin. It was slightly smaller in size than the Calvisus Tradition Prestige Caviar, and had a well-rounded flavor that lingered on the palate and left my taste buds with a clean finish. The Siberian Sturgeon caviar was served with Champagne Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2006, which is characterized by fine light bubbles. The champagne had a smooth lively palate with overtones of grapefruit and a long refined finish of spice. Ma-ma would have approved.
Taittinger’s headquarters are located on Reim’s Butte Saint-Nicaise, a site with more than 18 centuries of history. Descending nearly 60 feet underground, one travels back to a world, created in Gallo-Roman times. Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger purchased the Champagne House in 2006 and upheld the spirit of the company with his children, Vitalie and Clovis. Vitalie Taittinger is now the company’s Artistic Director, who derives inspiration for her work from the wide variety of experiences and encounters she enjoys while traveling around the Champagne region and around the world. Clovis Taittinger joined his father at Taittinger Champagne in 2007 and has managed the export department since 2011.
Before the extraction of caviar (at about 12 years of age), sturgeons receive an ultrasound to make sure the eggs are at the right point of maturation. And then the caviar is extracted in operating rooms with a vacuum air filtration system in a completely sterile temperature-controlled environment. Lower amount of salt (Malossol) caviar is fresh and does not require more than 3% of salt to cover any organoleptic imperfection. Fresh caviar is unpasteurized and allows for unaltered flavor, which results being softer on the palate. Delighted to know the little eggs are no longer from the Beluga whale, and that Calvisius ensures that the sturgeon is protected