Valrhona Manjari Noir 64% 85.5/100

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This bar is made with trinitario beans from the Sambirano Valley in north west Madagascar. Once harvested these beans are shipped to Le Harve and then driven to Tain-l’Hermitage, part of the Rhone Valley, an area particularly famous for growing wine, where Valrhona turn them into one of their Grand Cru chocolate bars. 

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I’ve tried a lot of cocoa from Madagascar and with this being a trinitario variety, it’s going to be fruity, with berry flavours leading the charge. Occasionally there’s some balsamic to the acidity and occasionally some tropical and stonefruits enter the mix, but in general it’s red fruits, high acidity and hopefully a smooth balance. Opening the bar I’m presented with Valrhona’s familiar crazy paving slab and breaking a piece off reveals aromas of almonds with a sweet red berry acidity underneath capped by vanilla. Placing a piece in my mouth, there’s a firm chocolate that melts slowly with heavy clotted cream textures that melt smoothly. To taste this bar is fairly simple, or more accurately concise, with an opening roasted cocoa note that opens up into red berry notes before a vanilla toned finish. There’s not a lot of dimension or variance in the flavour, but what flavour it has is fairly well rounded and structured. The bar is very approachable for an acidic Madagascan, with a good degree of contrasted balance, only really let down in the finish where some processing gets in the way of an honest expression. This is an enjoyable bar, with a decent profile, it could just do with a craft edge to it, a little more development and a little less smoothed out processing, to let it speak for itself. A good if slightly tempered introduction to Madagascan cacao. Best enjoyed with complementary flavours, clotted cream ice cream, almonds, kirsch or berry compote.

Ingredients: Cocoa beans, sugar, cocoa butter, emulsifier: soya lecithin, natural vanilla extract

Appearance 8.5/10

Colour: Medium milky brown
Texture: Smooth fudge
Mould: Valrhona crazy paving segments
Snap: Crisp
Temp/Shine: Matte gloss

Aroma 8/10

Intensity(0-10): 7
Notes: Almonds, red berries, vanilla
Quality: Light, sweet, processed

Melt/Mouthfeel 9/10

Length: Long
Evenness: Even
Texture: Clotted cream, heavy cream, smooth
Quality: Thick, full, smooth

Acidity 9/10

Intensity(0-10): 6
Notes: Redcurrant, red berries
Quality: Rounded, subtly sharp

Sweetness 8.5/10

Intensity(0-10): 9
Notes: Soft set berry jam, cherry syrup, icing sugar
Quality: Uplifting, dessert

Flavour 8.5/10

Intensity(0-10): 8
Type: Sweet
Notes: Roasted cocoa, berries, dried cherry, redcurrant, vanilla
Quality: Simple, balanced, rounded

Length 8.5/10

Flavours have a medium length, starting long, but finishing a little short, smooth rounds come from arcs of acidity

Finish 8.5/10

Notes: Berries, icing sugar vanilla
Quality: Fruit fills the end before hints of icing sugar and a vanilla tinge to the finish leaving clean sweet tones to linger

Balance 8.5/10

Bar is fairly balanced with roasted and fruit attributes marrying well and providing good contrasting balance, firm but smooth structure provides good stability

Overall 8.5/10

Bar has some depth and a little dimension, but remains fairly simple, small amount of complexity is well balanced, structure is consistent, expression is indicative of terroir with clear Madagascan flavours, but processing makes itself known around the edges providing more smooth vanilla than is necessary

Valrhona’s Tasting Notes: The rich soils of the sambirano valley encourage the release of acidic notes of red berries and dried fruit, offering a unique expression of the aromas of the ancient trinitario tree, found in northern Madagascar

 

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