** Archived Notes
This is my first time with Valrhona's vintage plantation series. I took these notes a while ago, but wanted to get them posted anyway.
El Pedregal is a vintage single estate cacao plantation in Venezuela with rare Criollo and Porcelana beans being cultivated and revived.
Via their website:
In order to further progress with our knowledge of the cocoa, Valrhona bought its first plantation El Pedregal in Venezuela 20 years ago, followed more recently in 2011 by Loma Sotavento in the Dominican Republic. For Valrhona, these company-owned plantations are living laboratories for research and exploration on several levels; they contribute to significant progress in certain crucial stages of the development of aromatic characteristics, such as fermentation and drying.
They help us in our experiments into responsible and sustainable farming. Valrhona works together with local experts to convert plantations into natural botanic gardens that create a new balance between the flora and its ecosystem.
El Pedregal plantation has enabled us to develop a vintage estate grown chocolate, with unrivaled delicacy: Porcelana El Pedregal (available November 2011)
Just like a fine vintage wine, the estate grown chocolates are the fruit of the yearly harvest of a single plantation, and the passion of a cocoa farmer. Each vintage thus offers you the opportunity to discover new facets of its personality. Valrhona also invites you to taste these vintage chocolates with unique and outstanding aromatic characteristics, Palmira from Venezuela, Gran Couva from Trinidad and Ampamakia from Madagascar.
Three years ago, an ambitious and highly innovative project was founded in Venezuela, called the Cambios project. It focuses on the principles of sustainable, quality cocoa farming, respectful both of the environment and people, focused on the preservation of a dying variety, Porcelana. It involves, among other things, the creation of biodiversity corridors within the plantation itself, up keeping the cocoa plantations in the manner of forests, and planting other crops so that the local population has another income and training.
Type: Bittersweet, 64%
Bean Varietal: Criollo, Porcelana
Ingredients: Cacao beans, brown sugar, cocoa butter, soya lecithin, vanilla.
Sample Size: 75g or 2.6oz
Lot #: LP7511245
Appearance: Ignore the scratch mark on one of the tablets. I scratched it by accident opening out of it's foil wrapper but there was some long line surface marks I didn't cause. Long tablet with wide, fat tablets, monogrammed molding, shiny surface, medium dark brown color, not too dark, superficial fill lines on the back surface.
Snap: Good clean snap with nice crisp snap sound. Firm with clean break lines.
Aroma: Slightly floral out of the package, roasted with a slight char aroma, savory, inky, cocoa-y.
Taste: Sweet, slight spicy note, very delicate flavor at first, brown sugar molasses, inky, bready, cereal grains, slight hints of leather, dried fruits and tiny bit of resin or rubber from retro-olfaction. Clean finish. Very complex.
Texture: Hard at first, opens up with a medium-slow melt time, creamy texture but also a bit drying.
Very interesting chocolate. Delicate and simple aroma. Nothing too crazy going on there but a deeply complex flavor albeit not as strong as I would have liked. It opens up really soft and sweet. Very soft and almost boring. At first I thought this would be incredibly weak chocolate. But then it opens up a bit more and some deeper flavors come through. The brown sugar's molasses does interfere a bit. It wasn't overwhelming but definitely noticeable. Bready and yeasty with cereal grains, pen ink and dried fruits.
It's almost like this cacao wants to be bigger. But you can't drag out the flavors with more sugars or brown sugars. Sugars tend to bring out more fruits, but these beans apparently are so soft that the sugars ended up interfering with with it. There is a boldness to this chocolate and a deep richness. But also layered with soft floral notes and subtle inky flavors.
I don't know what to make of it honestly. I appreciate it for it's softness and hidden aggressiveness. But I doubt it would be this rich without the sugars. It tastes great, but in my honest opinion it's fairly boring and some of the flavors feel forced. The emphasis on these rare beans is very important. Criollo is the true original cacao bean. But I tend to like more richer, and bolder flavors. I want to be kicked in the face with raw flavors. Not so raw like Taza flavors, but a bit more bold than this.
This will sound very rude but I am going to be completely honest and say that this is over hyped chocolate. Sold for it's rarity and labeling of Procelana beans but there really isn't anything too spectacular about this. Perhaps it's different right after it's been molded and packaged and eaten when it's no older than one month. But for now, as cool as this single estate chocolate is, it's just not all that for what it's supposed to be.
Having said that, this could be good for people with sensitive palates. But again it's true nature is clouded a bit with the brown sugars and the molasses in it.
And just for fun, I just found out that Valrhona has taken the time to do some beer pairings with their chocolate and not just wine. Craft beer is often better paired with chocolate than wine. Especially with the American craft beer scene with the amount of new styles. They had different flavor profiles in their tasting but I agree with the recommendations.
EL PEDREGAL Dark Chocolate 64% (Venezuela) - This chocolate has soft, earthy flavors of mocha and coffee bean that are complex, yet mellow, with a dusty texture and slight bitterness on the palate. For a taste to complement these characteristics of the chocolate, an Irish Stout would offer texture and rich, hearty, aromatics without overwhelming the palate. The slight bitterness of the chocolate would match with an Extra Special Bitter which, despite the name is mildly aggressive, but not overpowering and will balance with the taste of the chocolate.
FInal Score: 91.2