A wonderful day out from Cantueso in Periana is a visit to the tiny village of Riofrio (cold river) about 45 minutes drive away, and a Mecca for lovers of caviare or if your pocket won’t stretch that far, to a plate of trout. There are fourteen restaurants within the village of only 300 inhabitants and they are host to over 400,000 visitors each year, all thanks to the well stocked river and local fish farm.
There has been trout fishing in the river recorded for hundreds of years but it was not until 1964 when an enterprising family came in search of the perfect waters for their fish farm that the full potential of this natural resource was realized. The cold, fast flowing water comes down from the Sierra Nevada and provides an ideal place to grow not only brown trout (500,000 kilos each year) but also Mediterranean Sturgeon. They normally have 98,000 sturgeon in their pools, separated by age rather than size, all thriving in the most perfect environmental conditions.
Riofrio caviare can be found all over the world in Michelin starred restaurants or corner shops for the wealthy such as Fortnum and Mason’s. There, Cold River Caviare retails at £50 for a 30g tin half the price of wild beluga which is becoming much more difficult to find. But why so expensive if it is farmed?
At Riofrio they are proud to be the first and possibly the only certified organic sturgeon farm in the world. They have shunned the use hormone supplements in the fish diet, preferring to let them grow naturally and more slowly. In this business patience certainly must be a virtue as sturgeon only mature between the ages of 15 and 20. Up until the age of about nine the females cannot be told apart from the males. At maturity the females will weigh around 30kg and will yield maybe 4.5kg of roe.
When the fish are thought to be ready to spawn the “farmers” use modern ultrasound scanner technology to check. Harvesting the eggs too early will result in dry eggs which have not yet absorbed the crucial fat from the fish’s body. Too late and they may lack definition and structure. When seen to be ready the fish is then sacrificed in what is almost a surgical procedure. After being stunned the fish is operated on by one of the staff who dressed in suitable surgeon like attire removes the eggs. Millions of them for further refining and washing in salted spring water. Finally the caviare is placed into tins and allowed to mature like a good wine for three to six months.
At Riofrio they are also keen to explain that they use every part of the sturgeon: the flesh is smoked, marinated or tinned; the oil goes to the pharmaceutical industry and is used in cosmetics and food supplements; and even the grey skin finds use in Italian handbags.
How to find Riofrio.
The village is just two minutes from the A92 motorway which runs from Malaga to Granada. From Periana you take the road towards Mondron A7204 and shortly after passing the olive oil factory above Mondron there is a right turn signed to Alfanarte. Follow this along a pretty but winding road. Through Venta del Rayo (watch out for massive speed bumps) and just before the motorway you will see a left turn signed to Riofrio. It is easy to miss as the biggest sign is that of a hotel but if you do end up on the motorway go in the direction of Malaga and take the first exit to Riofrio.
If you are staying with us at Cantueso Cottages ask for a map.
When to go?
If you avoid July and August you will not find it crowded, and in autumn and winter it is still very attractive with walks along the river and surrounding area well worth doing. The temperature however is always several degrees colder than the coast, in fact last week when I came by at 8 o’clock in the morning it was zero degrees, so take a coat.
Even in winter there are still several restaurants open and you will be amazed at how many ways there are to present trout if you don’t fancy caviare.