Atop party canapés, or as a starter this season before turkey and trimmings, caviar is a luxury that never goes out of fashion. And while the finest stuff originally came from the Caspian and Black Seas, it’s now produced in the US and western Europe.
Siberian sturgeon were introduced into Aquitaine, in south-west France, in the 1970s, and the region soon became the capital of French caviar production. A newcomer, Domaine Huso, produces environmentally friendly caviar in a pretty Dordogne village, and offers guided tours of its 19-hectare fish farm – with the chance to cuddle a sturgeon.
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Domaine Huso is a 200-year-old farm at a pretty spot under chalk cliffs, at the confluence of the Isle and Vern rivers, north of Bergerac. Its high-quality caviar is named after nearby Neuvic, known for its 16th-century island château and botanical garden. Tours – pack wellies and waterproofs in winter – are conducted by manager Jean Salkazanov, who leads visitors around the four breeding ponds, explaining how water is extracted from the river and later returned to it in a sustainable process.
Then comes the fun part: visitors are invited to pull on a pair of waders and climb into a pond inhabited by a number of sturgeon, lift one out and inspect it. They are wriggly and quite oily to the touch. This is followed by a caviar-eating lesson – the best way is to let it melt on the tongue, apparently.
Tours, from €15pp, run on Fridays and the first Saturday in July and August, but are available all year round if booked in advance. Tours in English are available on request.