For years it has seemed chocolatiers just can’t hit the mark on Sao Tome – an origin with apparently lots of potential but up to now shaky delivery. No more. Cluizel comes up with the definitive reference for the origin in a bar superb in every way, retaining everything: the fruity up-front flavour, the deeper background notes, while eliminating the negatives: harsh length, flat finish, that had up to now plagued essentially all bars. Could Cluizel have topped Los Ancones? This bar is definitely a rival.
Stuart Robson: 26-Jan-2011
The appearance here is as expected, well tempered and with little swirling or bubbling. The colour is of course, where Sao Tome is concerned, rather dark but the touches of deep brown indicate that the beans have been treated somewhat carefully.
The aroma is deep and quite brooding with soft molasses, liquorice, damp tobacco, espresso and some spicy high notes. There are woody touches adding further depth but the whole retains the careful refinement so characteristic of Cluziel.
After such a full bodied aroma the delivery is quite surprising. A light touch of fennel accompanies raspberry jam and a hint of fresh fig before darker aspects slowly begin to take hold; the coffee, tobacco and oaken spices being most prominent. The finish is even and sustained, all on faint tannins, anise and a figgy back note. The profile has such a comfortable feeling of balance and refinement and yet the beans offer such bold flavours, not the most complex bar but beautiful.
Texturally this is pure Cluizel and with none of the problems found in the Los Ancones tasted alongside it. The typical light, even and silky melt is ideal here and is hard to fault.
Vila Gracinda can now be considered something of a classic in the current Cluizel line, dependable from batch to batch and with an inviting, easily enjoyable profile. The only issue may be that it is incredibly easy to eat and as such, disappears all too quickly.
Alex Rast: 14-Jan-2008
Michel Cluizel always puts on a good first impression, and as usual the bar is immaculate: perfectly moulded, perfectly tempered, and with a colour that while dark, surprisingly avoids the ebony-black so common with Sao Tome Forasteros. Visuals, however, immediately take a back seat to the aroma, which is simply amazing. Layers of cedar and raspberry strike a sharp upfront note, while clove and creamy notes add body while contributing an exotic, sumptuous character that conveys luxury in its essence. Might there also be a trace of rubber, though? Something elusive floats in just for a second – without strong focus it will be missed anyway, but if there is *anything* at all to criticise about the aroma that might be the only quibble one could find.
The flavour is a revelation of all that is Sao Tome. The characteristic strawberry/raspberry fruitiness floods out from the beginning, and in sharp contrast to other chocolates, is incredibly sustained, giving way only slowly and with the greatest reluctance to the deeper and more brooding aspects of the bean: coffee, cocoa, brown sugar. That the initial flavour lasts so long really prolongs the length, finally erasing the persistent problem with all previous Sao Tomes: dreadful finish flatness. No bitterness comes through, not even a hint. A slight trace of hazelnut really sets the final touch on a bar of stunning greatness.
As usual, too, Cluizel doesn’t falter on texture, with pure smoothness and perfect creaminess – although to split hairs there *are* bars in which Cluizel has been even more effortless in melt. There’s a sense, though, of reaching to find things to criticise: Cluizel has just achieved a stunning success. There has been a general excitement about Sao Tome among producers for many years, and yet up until now the results have been vaguely disappointing. Here Cluizel shows us what to be excited about.
In a previous review on the Maralumi milk, I laid down the gauntlet a bit: that bar had been a disappointment and I expected more, much more, from Vila Gracinda. Well, it would appear Cluizel has risen to the challenge and indeed delivered – this is a bar that exceeds even optimistic expectations about what one could expect.