The reputation of Sologne caviar, also called "Solenska," reaches far beyond the region, which lies between La Ferté-Beauharnais and Saint-Viâtre, at a hamlet called Le Grand Cernéant. Vincent Hennequart and his sister Patricia produce about a ton of sturgeon caviar each year.
"My father settled here in the early 1970s setting up his fish farm. In the 1990s, he started breeding sturgeon and in 1999-2000 caviar production began. In 2005, we moved to a commercial scale in 2007, when we had our first harvest," explains Vincent.
The sturgeons bred here are the Siberian baeri species, which mature at 7-8 years and sometimes 11-12 years of age. They are well adapted to the Sologne climate, where they are raised in temperate waters in low density tanks (about one fish per 10 m3).
"The sturgeons swim constantly, going around the tank. The bottom is natural, and they feed on what they find, insects and larvae for example. The average egg yield for a female sturgeon is of the order of 10-12%. Once the caviar is extracted, the rest of the fish goes to Brenne to be filetted."
Farming techniques are rigorous, sanitary controls being very strict because of the level of quality sought. After a much trial and error, the technique used today was is perfected until 2013, when a ton of caviar was sold for the first time.
In 2016, two tons of caviar were produced in Saint-Viâtre. "All our production is sold even before the harvest is complete," adds Vincent. When you find out that one kilogram sells for between 1600 and 1800 euros, you can see it’s a profitable enterprise...