Companies like Riofrío and Nacarii are the standard bearers with comprehensive control over the breeding of sturgeon and their most exclusive by-product.
In the mountains of Loja (province of Granada, in Andalusia), in the middle of nowhere, few would expect to find sturgeons swimming freely in large pools. The water is crystal clear and comes from mountains located 3,000 meters above sea level, benefitting an area where there is no agricultural, human, or livestock activity. Additionally, a constant temperature of 14-15 degrees Celsius allows the fish to live in ideal conditions.
These sturgeons yield the famous Riofrío caviar, considered one of the best in the world and made from the roe of species and breeds such Acipenser naccarii, Osetra, and the coveted beluga. They need to reach between 16 and 25 years of age, so it's a matter of patience. When sturgeon fishing began to be banned in the 1990s because the fish were in danger of extinction, a business model began to take shape that led Riofrío caviar to become the first in the world to obtain organic certification. In 2021, the brand was acquired by the Osborne Group, famous for its Sherry wines and for one of the most renowned Ibérico hams in the world: Cinco Jotas.
In addition to its organic caviar, Riofrío produces two other options: traditional and Russian-style, depending on the flavor. Each bite of this very select product clearly shows an exquisite way of producing caviar that bears fruit: the salty and fatty sensations are perfectly balanced in a product that brings together marine nuances with hints of nuts and cream. Riofrío's caviar is a novel product in the sector, for which 70% of global production comes from China.
There are many staunch fans of Riofrío caviar. This includes chefs like José Andrés, who uses it to add a special touch to his fried eggs... But if there's one chef in particular who has become an expert in working with this product, it's Diego Gallegos, at his restaurant Sollo (Fuengirola, Málaga). Gallegos shows us that there are many alternatives to eating it alone or on blinis with crème fraiche. He includes it on the menu with catfish and white butter sauce and also with aligot—cheese blended into mashed potatoes—with aromatic herbs, showcasing the creativity of a product of exceptional quality. For those who want to appreciate it in all of its splendor without any interference, it can be eaten directly off of your hand or with a mother-of-pearl spoon, as metal can give the caviar a metallic flavor.
From Andalusia to the Pyrenees
However, what's going on in Riofrío is not unique in Spain. The singular conditions in the mountains of Granada also exist in the Val d'Aran, in the Spanish Pyrenees. Here we also find sturgeons growing naturally and sustainably in the waters of the Garonne River. The purity of the waters from the thaw and an incomparable natural setting give rise to a caviar of the highest quality with a transparent flavor.
Nacarii is the company producing this delicacy, which is sold in three versions: Tradition, Selection and Premium, which differ according to the size of the roe. Of course, it's a product that needs to be served along with something else, although Nacarii encourages consumers to try it in recipes such as marinated Palamós prawns, leek quiche, and quail egg on a blini. Different options to take the most out of this outstanding product.
Spanish chefs are not the only ones in love with this caviar made in Spain. Gordon Ramsey is one of the renowned chefs who has publicly expressed his passion for Riofrío caviar. Along these lines, both Riofrío and Nacarii caviar are exported to international markets. Riofrío expects to produce four tons of caviar in 2023 and already has a solid presence in markets such as the United Kingdom and northern European countries, where there is significant demand for this organic product. Nacarii, which began its international expansion in 2009, exports to countries in Europe, Asia, and America, including Japan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States. Spanish caviar, crossing borders.