Review: Valrhona – El Pedregal Millésime 2012 – 64% (***)

There is fine chocolate made out of quality cacao beans. There is Single Origin chocolate, made of cacao grown in specific countries and then you have Single Estate chocolate, made of beans grown on a specific plantations. Valrhona’s El Pedegral is such a single estate grand cru. Even more, it’s a chocolate made with the harvest of a specific year – in this case 2012.

Valrhona has revived the old El Pedregal plantation to deliver high quality criollo beans, the queen of cacao. The specific Criollo bean used is the illusive Procelana. A white coloured bean. This plantation is situated in Venezuela, widely considered the terroir offering the best of the best.

Valrhona is actually one of very few chocolate makers who actually own a plantation, making them a truly bean-to-bar manufacturer. They control every step of the production process.

The French Valrhona company is well know in the culinary world, manufacturing high quality products with superior ingredients. Many star chefs use this brand in their creation.

So, we have a top product made by one of the most renowned chocolate makers using very rare cacao beans. But how does it taste? Does it translate into an overwhelming experience?

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Bean: Criollo Porcelana

Origin: Venezuela
Production: Valrhona – France
Price paid: € 4,85/75 g – Hilde Devolder chocolatier

Just a great looking sleeve it comes in. You can’t miss the information on the label, actually close to the ones you get on a fine bottle of wine.

The bar looks very sleek with its designer shaped pieces. I like the size of the individual pieces, not to big and not so small either. They last just long enough. The bar is wrapped in a simple orange/gold foil. You have to rip it open to get to the brown gold inside, wich is a little annoying as I always try to wrap the remaining chocolate as good as possible to prevent taste changes in the cupboard when storing it.

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Colour: Ebony brown, almost milk-chocolaty in nature but slightly darker.

Aroma: Slightly earthy, lots of cacao, spice and hints of red fruits, distinct sweetness.

Taste: sweetness in front, as expected from a 64% chocolate using brown sugar. The sweetness slowly gives room to a deep and rich cacao taste with an intensity I haven’t experienced many times before. The chocolate dissolves slowly and velvety, though not it isn’t as smooth as other chocolates texture wise, it feels faintly grainy. It does not offer very bold flavor changes, rather a really complex and balanced aroma that mixes several tones to a serene harmony.
Mingling in with the cacao are some red fruit hints, that never draw all the attention. It is all about cacao. Vanilla twirls and entangles with the sweetness and a very slight acidity offers a refreshing tone. Towards the end of the melt, a very gentle espresso-like bitterness appears and marks the beginning of the aftertaste that is even more about pure chocolate taste. The amazing cacao taste keeps filling your mouth, as the hints of acidity and bitterness keep popping up.
Funny how I feel this chocolate is somewhat too sweet, partly because by now I’m accustomed to high cacao percentages and to me the aftertaste reveals more of what I really like in fine chocolate. Cacao, vanilla and even some smoke touches. It extends the tasting pleasure with its enduring lenght. Nice!
This chocolate is renowned as a single estate chocolate and in fact I do feel it’s really refined and complex. Yet I tend to like more bold tastes. Somehow I expected more taste wise, given the type of beans, plantation and producer. But the intensity of the chocolate aroma makes me understand how many chefs adore using Valrhona chocolate in their creations. It is by no means an average chocolate, but there are products that grasp your attention in a more profound way. I’m wondering how it will change in behaviour depending on the time I taste it, because as I’ve noticed before, the palate seems to be suseptible to different tastes at different moment of the day.  I’ll do get back to this brand as soon as I get the chance, as the quality obviously shines through!

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2 comments on “Review: Valrhona – El Pedregal Millésime 2012 – 64% (***)

  1. Hilde says:

    Persoonlijk vind ik hem ook een beetje te zoet. Grappig dat je dit ook vindt. Wel goed want ons smaakpallet verandert dus wel door veel verschillende chocolades te proeven. Zeer goed geëvalueerd!

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  2. I love Valrhona in desserts, cakes etc. so I jumped on their 6 Grands Crus tasting set but I was quite disappointed with the chocolates. The tastes were mostly okay, but they seemed very very dry – snap doesn’t quite hit it, crumble into dust is more like it. Can’t help but wonder if they suffered from the transport, though.

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