Are vintage sardines really the best canned sardines?
Vintage sardines are selected for their quality! Not all sardines can end up in a can as vintage sardines, so what is the true definition of a vintage sardine?
In order to receive the prestigious vintage sardine label , sardines must guarantee a certain fat content.
This allows them to age in good conditions and improve over time (a dream!).
Criteria vary by canner, but typically the target fat content is over 10%.
Quite logically this means that these sardines should be caught as late in the season as possible to give them time to grow quietly.
In France, especially in Brittany, the sardines for vintage sardines are usually caught from the end of August and until the end of the fishing season in October/November.
Although vintage sardines can be found in many countries (Portugal and Spain in particular), it's a concept that's more widespread in France. The vintage sardines are preserved in beautiful tins!
Canners compete for the prettiest cans for their vintage sardines. To do this, they work closely with painters and artists. This makes each vintage completely unique: from the contents (the sardines!) to the packaging (the can).
Due to the quality of the sardines selected, these tins are produced in limited series, increasing their appeal to collectors.
For example, for " La Perle des Dieux ", the famous cannery from Saint Gilles Croix de Vie, the artist Delphine Cossais from Nantes has been chosen and every year offers a new work of art to tell a story on the cannery's pretty tins.
A new artist is chosen each year for the " Compagnie Bretonne ", allowing the discovery of a wider range of Breton artists. For the 2019 vintage, for example, the painter Albert Quentel from Pont L'Abbé has set to work. His painting depicts the waves and the sea in St. Pierre, at the foot of the Eckmühl lighthouse... A few kilometers from the cannery.
The same applies to " La Pointe de Penmarc'h ", a cannery in Guilvinec, where the art on the vintage sardine cans is a guest every year. The 2020 vintage is the result of a collaboration with the Breton painter and sculptor Paul Moal, born in Douarnenez in 1948.
" Les Mouettes d'Arvor " from Concarneau has been bringing out several specially designed tins of aged sardines every year for 50 years, much appreciated by collectors. The packaging of these sardines is unique each year, capturing the essence of each vintage, making them coveted collectors' items. Les Mouettes d'Arvor has an excellent reputation for the quality of their sardines and the creativity of their packaging.
Another example is " La Quiberonnaise ": to celebrate the cannery's 100th anniversary, it invited three renowned comic artists to create a triptych on the world of the sardine. Margerin (a regular who has already done several illustrations for La Quiberonnaise preserves), Gilbert Shelton and Denis Lelièvre (aka Pic) got out their paintbrushes to illustrate three life scenes scented with iodine.
Aren't all sardines vintage sardines?
Yes, there is still a little debate. It can be argued that all sardines are (a little) vintage sardines: you just have to look at the can from all angles and you'll always find a pack date (and if you don't, you have a right to be concerned!). This is how these cans aged.
What makes the difference between two cans packed in 2010, for example, is the selection of the sardines to be stored in them rather than the decision to stick the "vintage sardines" label on them.
" La Belle Iloise " is a good example of this: they don't currently offer vintage sardines in their catalogue, but they carefully select the fish in each of their cans. Therefore, the "classic" Saint Georges can be considered vintage sardines.
Vintage sardines can be kept for several years
A frequently asked question concerns the storage of vintage sardines: "How long can they be stored?" It's true that they are storage cans, but that doesn't say how long we can keep them and enjoy them to their maximum flavor potential.
Opinions differ as to what the ideal storage period is, but at Maître Philippe & Filles we like to say that they are in their prime between 5 and 10 years after the vintage date. Between us we refer to this as syllable age (a reference to the color of these "silver arrows") and gold age (a reference to the color that the oil takes on after a large number of years in storage).
Over time, the vintage sardines become saturated and saturated with the oil. Their flavor will improve over time and the central bones (which sometimes repel some people despite being naturally high in calcium) will eventually "melt" and disintegrate, eventually disappearing entirely.
In the end, these are exceptional products that should be kept for special occasions. Some restaurants also add their menu and serve it as an aperitif or tapas.
In any case, we recommend enjoying them in the simplest way possible, for example with a good piece of bread and butter and a glass of dry white wine. From our point of view (and our taste buds!), using them in a dish would be a waste.
In general, canned sardines are an anti-waste weapon as they can be enjoyed long after they are produced without the need to keep them in a cool place (luckily!). This is all the more true for the vintage sardines, which, thanks to their fat content, can be kept even longer than their "non-millésimées" sisters.
To put together a collection of vintage sardines, three aspects must be considered:
- Choose the best cans, made by the manufactories that have done a thorough job in choosing the products (sardines but also oil) and preparing them. We offer you a selection further down on this page.
- Turn the cans periodically to help distribute the oil evenly throughout the can and meat of the fish. We recommend doing this every 4 to 8 months.
- Resist! The temptation to open those beautiful and good cans is sometimes the most difficult condition. Another trick is to buy several cans of the same vintage to compare their evolution from year to year and also to keep one in case one day you give in (it happens to us all...).
Our selection of the best vintage sardines
There is something for every budget when it comes to canned sardines, including vintage sardines. But it remains an affordable pleasure: at Maître Philippe & Filles we offer you the largest selection in Germany. Discover our selection of vintage sardines directly in our online shop .
Now you know everything: it only remains to enjoy ... in a few years! or the same.
Also read this blog post about vintage sardines: The journey of the sardines in oil – or Waiting for Pierrot