Maybe just slightly less accomplished than previous Palmiras, this one retains the rather surprising, unfamiliar progression of flavours that previous vintages have offered. “Slightly”, it must be emphasised, is a critical modifier: by any reasonable standard this is excellent chocolate. But with a somewhat blander, sweeter profile one wonders if Valrhona might have done well to lower the sugar just a bit.
Hans-Peter Rot: 26-Nov-2007
In Palmira, Valrhona has found a beautiful color of light brown and orange, and without any surface flaws, the bar simply looks superb all over. The aroma is also quite excellent and not nearly as abrasive as the two previous vintages, conveying currants, nutmeg, bitter almonds, and an overtone of tangy orange so common for the chocolate. Valrhona apparently has tighter control on the bar this year, suggesting a calmer and hopefully better balanced flavor is in store than in previous years.
One can only dream. In the wake of such a pleasing aroma, the flavor is nothing more than a deflating experience. Brown sugar is basically the dominant theme, starting the flavor on a terrible note but eventually showing some interest as nuts surge in with a mild orange-like acidity and blueberries as well. Though nice to taste, it is subtle and momentary, quickly derailed by wave upon wave of brown sugar, which perhaps could be quelled by upping the percentage since at a mere 65% Palmira is excessively cloying and unpleasant in its sweetness.
Luckily the texture, as dusty and thick as it is, does not exacerbate the sweetness, but it is a problem Valrhona should address. Why they havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t done so in three years is still puzzling and quite frankly unacceptable. But if I have to be optimistic about the chocolate, the relative control and calmness is commendable, and I can certainly sense a shared Palmira style in all three vintages. Unfortunately for Valrhona, though, there really is no interest in the bar, which is by far the least successful of the years.
Alex Rast: 4-Oct-2007
Valrhona as usual does a superb job with appearances, the bar being almost immaculately moulded and of a beautiful burgundy maroon that cries elegance. Even with the pretty face, though, its the aroma that instantly siezes the attention. Valrhona has always been known for complex aromae, but this one is off the scale on complexity, with currant prevailing initially, then molasses and woods having their turn, then lime. A really exotic touch of something like cardamom comes in and out and the mind is torn between wanting instantly to begin tasting and to just sit there and smell.
As it happens, though, continuing to smell would be the better choice, because the flavour, perhaps inevitably, can’t live up to the promise of the aroma. In a complete change of direction from the aroma it starts on a walnut note, then moves towards melon mixed with brown sugar: odd, but it works. The nut flashes persist throughout, but in truth that’s about all there is, nothing of the complexity of the aroma, and one can’t help but feel, with a strongly sweet and mild character, that the problem here is too much sugar. It’s pleasant enough, but one really wishes for more after the potential one sees in the aroma.
A bit like previous Palmiras, this one doesn’t have the perfect texture Valrhona has a reputation for, being rather firm and ever-so-slightly dusty, at the limits of detectability. One is reminded of Amedei texture. Is this also a fault of the sugar? Inevitably higher sugar leads to poorer texture, and with the flavour also having that subtle imbalance it seems clear that there is just that little too much in here this time. It could be an important lesson about vintage origins: given that the characteristics vary from year to year, the formulations should really be tweaked from year to year to match the particular vintage. Let Valrhona learn, though, because it would seem this is their bar to experiment with, and with each experiment, each new vintage, they can refine the process. Meanwhile, we can enjoy a chocolate that (so far) has never been worse than excellent in a slightly different rendition each year.