February 23, 2011

Valrhona – Gran Couva 2010 – Review – Martin

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Written by: Martin Christy

Gran Couva was the first single plantation/origin chocolate of the modern era, starting a trend that has blossomed and grown into the whole world of specialist origin chocolate.

When other bars joined the range though – first Chuao, then Ampamakia, then Palmira later replacing Chuao – Gran Couva always felt to me like the poor cousin. It’s trinitario roots didn’t quite stand up next to the genetics of the others. The grapevine has it though that some new ICM varieties have been introduced to the plantation, resulting in some interesting changes and added complexity.

Gran Couva 2010 close up

Gran Couva 2010 close up

Previous years’ Gran Couva could be summed up as ‘orange candy tobacco’. Smell the 2010 and you think you’ve got the same. A big candy forastero note leaning towards orange cream biscuit with light fresh tobacco.

The first note is biscuit, then chocolate – no sign of candy at all, just a sweet orange burst. Then toast and the flavours slowly start to twist – the first hint that there’s something new going on here and that we’re about embark on a complex flavour journey. Molasses, light red fruit, rising up with a baked feel, butter, toffee, fruit cream, coffee at the end, slightest ash. Give it another pass and the journey can be different – grapefruit, orange, salt, caramel, bourbon biscuit, earth. Again later sweet toffee and fruit, different at every take.

The chocolate melts with no complaints – there’s too much going on with the flavour journey to notice, which is a good thing. The ideal requirement could be ‘seen but not heard’ when it comes to the melt.

The length is really the most interesting part. At first dry biscuit – which is ok, but almost disappointing given the previous expedition across the flavour map. Soon though comes rising gentle citrus and melon, the sweetness and lightness of which only increases the longer you leave it. Almost no dark or off notes are present, just a light chocolate, with few tannins and a slight wax at the very end.

A remarkable transition from a ‘bulk’ forastero beginning to a sophisticated criollo end. Sometimes trinitarios can be flat and merely ‘worthy’, occasionally they can take you on a transformative journey through the whole world of Theobroma cacao genetics. Gran Couva 2010 is definitely in the latter category.

Looks wise, the chocolate is lighter than previous years, which could come from the genetics and/or a lighter roast. The bar has a sheen rather than a glossy shine, and a rather ‘manly’ snap! Texture is grainy, with the odd small bubble.

Trinidad has always been a complex source, but Gran Couva rarely lived up to that reputation. This year is another story though – give this bar time and fireworks will come. It might have been a tight competition up against the 2009 Ampamakia, but of the current 2010 vintage, Gran Couva is for me – surprisingly – the easy winner.

About the Author

Martin Christy
Martin Christy is Seventy%’s editor and founder and is a leading voice in the chocolate industry, promoting the cause of fine chocolate and fine cacao and those who produce them. With twenty years’ experience of fine chocolate, he has travelled extensively visiting cocoa plantations and meeting the world’s top producers and is a consultant to the fine chocolate and cacao growing industries worldwide. Martin is Judging Director of the International Chocolate Awards, which he founded in the UK with Kate Johns of Chocolate Week. He is also Acting Chairman of the new fine cacao and chocolate industry association, Direct Cacao and is a member of the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Initiative Tasting Panel. He is also a freelance writer about fine chocolate, contributing to UK magazines and several books about fine chocolate.



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