FROM THE BEGINNING
The history of caviar is intrinsically linked to that of the sturgeon, and began 200 million years ago with the appearance of sturgeons on the Earth. Numerous Egyptian, Greek and Latin artifacts and writings report an interest in the sturgeon fish starting around 2,200 years ago.
The first historical record of a product very similar to the caviar used today dates back to 1240 AD and was found in Uglich, Russia. Caviar became a very popular product of the Russian tradition, especially in relation to the arrangements of the Orthodox Church. In 1675 Tsar Alexei Michailovich (the second Romanov Tsar) establishes the exclusive authority of the tsar in the caviar trade. Twenty years later, in 1695, Peter the Great founded the first office for fishing in Astrakhan.
As for Italy, three species of sturgeon were present in the territory and caviar was both produced and imported; the Serenissima Republic of Venice imported and distributed caviar from the Black Sea, trading first with the Byzantine Empire, then with the Ottomans. The first known Italian recipe to utilize caviar dates back to the mid-1400s but a century later several Italian authors publish methods (recipes) for the preparation of caviar. In Ferrara, the traditional production based on fishing in the Po river, is documented from Cristoforo di Messisbugo until the Second World War.
Towards the end of 1800 a shortage of the Caspian Sea and Black Sea resources forces to extend sturgeon fishing to many other areas in the world. Everywhere new industries quickly collapse from lack of stocks. During the Belle Époque, and especially after the October Revolution of 1917, much of the Russian aristocracy migrates to France bringing with them a caviar trend that will soon spread throughout Europe. To support this growing consumption, sturgeons are caught and even decimated in France, Germany, USA, Canada and Asia, as well as in Italy. However, the species of the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea are the only ones still exploitable and assert themselves in international markets with their Russian names: beluga, oscietra and sevruga.
CAVIAR IN 900s
In the early 1900s Russia extends the fishing of sturgeon and the production of caviar to Iran, employing only Russian workers; in fact, in Iran sturgeons were considered haram and forbidden by Islam’s law. In 1953 Iran breaks the treaty with Russia and creates the Shilat, a single company owned by the state, The world begins to know Iran's caviar and the controversy arises as to which is the best caviar, whether the Iranian or the Russian one.
In the '70s the first business initiatives for the breeding of sturgeons start to develop in Italy, France and USA. In 1998, CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) includes in the list of species under protection all fish of the Acipenser family (sturgeons and spatulas). The world begins to seriously think about the consequences of uncontrolled fishing. In 2006 fishing is completely banned in the Caspian Sea. In Calvisano, Calvisius farms set a record in the production of caviar with 25 tons of sturgeon roe.