Tag Archives: Valrhona

Valrhona Palmira Chocolat Noir de Domain

Valrhona Palmira Single Estate Bar Label

Valrhona Palmira Single Estate Bar Label

I’ve been reviewing a lot of unconventional chocolate lately – nib-filled bars and coated cacao beans to name just some, so I thought it was about time to get back to a simple, pure chocolate bar and talk about the essence of cocoa origin.  Cocoa origin is primarily about place.  Where the cacao is grown imparts a certain character to the chocolate that cannot be reproduced exactly the same way elsewhere.

The venerable Valrhona makes such a wide range of chocolate that many people are not aware of some of their more obscure limited edition bars.  Akin to how some of the world’s finest wines are made, the Chocolat de Domain bars use cacao from only one estate where Valrhona can more closely control and monitor the quality of the beans produced year after year.  In keeping with the wine analogy, Valrhona declares a vintage for each harvest, in this case 2009.  The Palmira Plantation is situated in the fertile  lands of west Venezuela close to lake Maracaibo.  It’s here that they grow the world’s most rare major cacao variety – Criollo, a flavor bean that’s used to make less than 5% of all the world’s chocolate [3], a bean known for it’s subtle nuanced flavors.   By getting very specific about location – down to one individual estate, Valrhona takes single origin to the extreme.

Put it all together and you’ve got something truly unique – a chocolate made from single-estate cacao from a specific harvest year representing the characteristics of that growing season, location and, most importantly, bean variety – Criollo.  Now that’s just half the battle because after harvest, there are nine more steps involved in making a fine chocolate bar all of which can be fouled up in some way.  But, I wasn’t too worried going into this tasting since I’ve been told that the French know a little something about food and Valrhona about chocolate.   No, I went into this with great expectations.  So let’s taste.

 

Valrhona Palmira Single Estate Bar

Valrhona Palmira Single Estate Bar. This square is only about 2 cm wide and reveals the fine mold design and care taken to achieve a beautiful finish on the bar.

WHAT:  Valrhona Palmira Chocolat Noir de Domain (single estate).  64% cacao.  75g bar.  Ingredients: cocoa beans from Venezuela, sugar, cocoa butter, soya lecithin, vanilla.  Where to buy.

WHEN:  August 14, 2010

OVERALL RATING: 90

AROMA:  Honey, caramel, lavender, vanilla, banana, orange blossom, faint almonds.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS:  Banana, floral – lavender, light coffee and buttered toast.

MIDDLE TASTE:  A long, slow release of fruit – blueberry, cantaloupe, apricot and orange.  The fruit notes are less intense, yet not as short-lived as some less refined bars.  They are slow, steady and elegant.  Very gratifying.

FINISH:  Orange, citrus, creme and angel food cake slowly dissolves into vanilla ice cream.  A wonderful, long-lived finish leaves no unpleasant tastes.  Fades into an almost imperceptible straw note.

TEXTURE:  What is remarkable about the mouth feel was that the bar didn’t just melt away, it was more of a sensation of dissolving slowly into liquid.  This is velvet.

LAST BITE:   Most likely the result of long refining and conching, this bar gives up its fruit in a slow, steady stream that you can savor.  Unlike some of the minimally processed bars like Taza [2] where you get a sudden blast of bright fruit, Palmira is elegant, refined and sensual.  This bar is all feminine , not necessarily voluptuous like Scarlett Johansson, but more elegant and mature like Cate Blanchett.

The most rewarding part of the experience is the middle taste with its long and remarkably well-balanced fruit.   Valrhona seems to have worked hard to remove any off-notes at the expense of some intensity in the middle.  The result is well worth the trade-off with satisfying well-balanced fruit that you don’t need to search for.  What a fine criollo bar should be.

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NOTES:

[1]  I paid for all of the chocolate myself.

[2] To compare Taza to Valrhona is absurd, but that’s the point – these are completely different styles.

[3] Estimates of world-wide Criollo production vary greatly with some estimates at less than 1%.

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Valrhona Le Noir

Valrhona Le Noir 56% and 71%

Valrhona Le Noir 56% and 71%

This chocolate was introduced briefly in the last post as a widely available chocolate that we could use as a point of reference of sorts.   Of course, I planned to taste it all along – it’s no fun just to take photos.

WHEN: 6 June, 2009.

WHAT:  Valrhona Le Noir 56% cacao.  Organic.  Bean origin – “from Caribbean and Indian Ocean plantations.”  3.5oz (100g).  Price range: $

OVERALL RATING: 70.

AROMA:  Raisins, wax beans.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS:  Butter, almonds, taffy.

MIDDLE TASTE – Caramelized sugar, cream, bananas foster, butter, vanilla.

FINISH:  Steady note of smooth cream and vanilla starting back in the middle taste through the finish.

TEXTURE:  Smooth.  Nothing notable.

WHAT:  Valrhona Le Noir Amer 71% cacao.  Organic.  Bean origin – not specified, but uses a mixture or Trinitario and Criollo beans.  3.5oz (100g).  Price range: $

OVERALL RATING: 74.

AROMA:  White grapes, lilac.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS:  Peaches, toffee.

MIDDLE TASTE – Herbal notes, evergreen twigs, bananas, almonds, quick flash of cacao fruit – raspberry-like (it took me a while to get a grip on this quick flash of fruit.  It was like watching  a play and a purple-red spotlight grazes your eyes briefly – what was that?  Each piece I tried, there it was – simply, exactly cacao fruit.  Finally the raspberry note became more clear, so the effort wasn’t all in vein).

FINISH:  Citrus, subtle orange notes, hay, vanilla ice cream.

TEXTURE:  Smooth.  Nothing notable.

LAST BITE –  First of all, I didn’t intent to put down this product just because it’s widely accessible (even that’s an assumption since I live in an urban area and just about anything is widely accessible). No, this is very good chocolate.  I might even decide to make it my “everyday chocolate,” at least for now.   Just like my everyday wines – you know, the ones in the bargain bins at 2 for $15.  In our house, this means the $8 – 14 range.   Lately, it’s been closer to the $8 range or nothing at all.  The problem is that you can go through a lot of $8 wines before you find one worth buying more of. The rewards can be great, though – inexpensive bottles that knock your socks off.   I like to think about wine in tiers:  $8-14 for everyday, $15 – 25 when you want to enjoy a good bottle and $26 and up – you need a good reason to drink it.  Still, our $35+ bottles sit in the cellar waiting for a special occasion.

I do still like the idea of an everyday wine and an everyday chocolate not only because many of us can’t afford really exotic chocolates on a daily basis, but also because I need that point of reference to be reminded what truly special tastes like.  Fantastic is relative.  Relative to excellent, decent, OK, or inedible.  I don’t mean to imply that there is a direct correlation between quality and price either. Just as with wine, there’s not.  You need to do some searching and some tasting and decide where you want to spend your money.  In the end a 100g / $3 bar might not be inexpensive for some people, but you can decide what works for you. For now, the Valrhona Le Noir Amer 71% is a great place to start for my everyday bar.  As for those special occasions – Valrhona makes some specialty bars that I can’t wait to taste.

Disclosures: I paid for this chocolate myself.