The history of caviar began over two hundred million years ago, when sturgeon first started to appear on earth. Since then “caviar” has been fundamentally linked to the fish from which it is extracted, the sturgeon. There have been numerous accounts of “Caviar” from a number of sources; with Latin, Greek and Egyptian artifacts alike, showing a profound interest in the sturgeon circa two thousand years ago.
From the rise of these historical societies, caviar has been enjoyed by the ultra-elite as a delicacy, as well as for medicinal purposes (likely because caviar is packed with protein and rich in Omega 3s) in and around the Caspian and Black Sea regions- Persia, Russia, Greece, Turkey, and Italy. This exclusivity prolonged throughout most of history, through the middle ages where it was enjoyed by Russian Tsars, Persian Princes, and Chinese Warlords.
Caviar in Russia:
It was early in the 12th century AD when the first historical record of caviar can be found in Russia and it has been an integral part of Russian tradition ever since. Originally caviar was enjoyed by everyone, including the Orthodox Church and it wasn’t until the late-16th century when, Peter the Great founded the first commercial sturgeon fishing office, bringing with it, the exclusivity of all caviar belonging to the Tsar.
Caviar in Persia
Caviar had been enjoyed for centuries in Persia, and it wasn’t until the late-18th century, when the Caspian and Black Sea Caviar trade came to a grinding halt. Largely due to overfishing and depleting stocks, there was a shortage of delicious caviar on the finest tables around the globe. This lack of resources forced the global expansion of the sturgeon fishing industry into other areas of the world particularly the rest of Europe.
Caviar in Europe
Caviar was popular throughout most of Europe but it wasn’t until the golden age of the Belle Époque and specifically after the October Revolution when Russian aristocracy fled to France in 1917 conveying with them their insatiable appetite for caviar- creating an inclination that quickly spread throughout the rest of Europe. This growing consumption, combined with depleted stocks in Caspian region, led to depleted stocks in France, Germany, and Italy.
Caviar in Italy
The earliest recorded evidence of caviar in Italy was in the 14th century when caviar was imported from the Black Sea from the Byzantines; and it wasn’t long after that sturgeon fishing in the Mediterranean became popular, and Italy was added to the list of global caviar producers.
Caviar in North America
The European trend towards caviar quickly spread to the USA and Canada, where sturgeon fishing and caviar production spiked to supply European appetites for caviar. The market was flooded with moderate-grade caviar from all over the world, making caviar accessible to everyone. But once the preferred stocks of the Caspian region were once again plentiful, these premium-quality caviars soon asserted their reputations in the international market, and caviar quickly because an exclusive delicacy once again.
It wasn’t until the mid-1970s when sustainable caviar production was first introduced with the breeding of sturgeon in the USA, France, and Italy. Almost thirty years later, in 1998, CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) included sturgeon on its list of endangered species, bringing about a drastic change in how caviar would be produced. Today sturgeon caviar is almost exclusively sustainably farmed in order to preserve the 250million-year old legacy that is the sturgeon.