Ampamakia is a farm on the Millot Plantation in the Sambirano Valley just north of Ambanja in north west Madagascar, which grows a mixture of trinitario and criollo cacao. As part of its Single Plantation range, Valrhona have designed this bar to express the individualities of a single farm on a Madagascan cacao plantation, with them producing bars from the Millot Plantation from multiple harvest years, this bar is from the 2014 harvest. Valrhona based in Tain-l’Hermitage, part of the Rhone Valley, are well known for producing high end gastronomic chocolate, so it’s nice to see that they’re still intent producing a single plantation chocolate for those of us that are planning on eating the chocolate rather than cooking with it.
Madagascan cacao is notoriously fruity, something about the terroir imparts high flavourful acidity and for me I’ve come to associate Madagascar with big red berry flavours. So my expectations for this bar were for big red berry flavours, high acidity and the high quality processing you would expect from Valrhona. With large, almost industrial size chocolate bar manufacturers you tend to experience consistent high quality production values, high quality tempering, texture, roasting etc, almost a guarantee of a lack of mistakes in processing, which tends to create these perfect bars. What these perfect bars lack however is a touch of idiosyncrasy, a lack of easily defined individuality, as if the beans are moulded into the philosophical shape of the chocolate manufacturer, rather than the bar is moulded by the cacao beans. The alternative is small batch craft chocolate, where idiosyncrasies abound often at the expense of certain qualities and attributes, these bars are usually more fun, but fun doesn’t always mean better. Here I was curious to see how a very individualised terroir would match up with a large scale manufacturer. First off, there was no red berry notes in this bar, the same familiar Madagascan acidity appeared, but instead of berries there was some bold tropical and stone fruits. The mouthfeel wasn’t smooth either, it displayed the textural qualities of jelly, something akin to soft set jam or Turkish delight and had a somewhat juicy aspect to it. All the consistency and balance of a large manufacturer was present, but this bar was definitely individual and while fun or care free might be a stretch I wouldn’t hesitate to call this bar vibrant.
Ingredients: Cocoa beans from Madagascar, sugar, cocoa butter, emulsifier: Soya lecithin, vanilla
Colour: Light milky brown
Texture: Smooth, soft, fudgey
Mould: Valrhona crazy paving segments
Snap: Thick snap
Temp/Shine: Matte sheen, very consistent
Notes: Honey, golden tobacco, chocolatey, flame raisins golden berries
Length: Soft medium/long
Texture: Jelly, juicy
Quality: Texturally pleasurable, playful
Notes: Papaya, passionfruit
Quality: Bright, uplifting, effervescent
Notes: Fruity honey, ripe fruit
Quality: Well rounded,
Notes: Tropical and stone fruits, flame raisins, papaya, passionfruit, apricot jam
Quality: Sweet, bold, honest, very ripe
Flavours are bold and long, while changing over the course of the melt, sharp rather than rounded
Notes: Passionfruit, apricot jam
Quality: Acidity fades while jammy sensation lingers, enjoyable
Flavours are complementary and work well together, bar has a strong sweetness and acidity that dominate the experience, medium structure
Well developed bar, good dimension with medium depth, structure is a little wavering, but expression is bold, bar is vibrant, but lacks some refinement.
Valrhona’s Tasting Notes: On the island of Madagascar, at the heart of the fertile Sambirano river valley, lies one of the island’s celebrated plantations, the Ampamakia farm. Amidst these lush surroundings where delicate fragrances mingle with the colors of the vanilla and ylang-ylang fields, trinitario and criollo cacao beans have been cultivated for more than 100 years. Their acid yellow fruit freshness and roasted notes will transport your senses.