May 21, 2011

Marcolini – Grand Cru de Propriété Mexique

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Written by: Alex Rast

Marcolini does his best to put Belgium in the mix of countries with fine chocolate bars, and ends up dropping everything on the floor. This attempt at Porcelana comes out completely lacking in character, interest, or almost anything else. Perhaps Marcolini was trying to go for subtlety here but if so he’s overdone it: this is subtle to the point of disappearing entirely. In many ways, it seems to repeat the mistakes of his 85%: too much processing, too little flavour.

Out of the box it can’t be said the chocolate is as typically Porcelana in look as many, being of a somewhat darker shade of red-brown, but it’s not black either; this is obviously a reasonable bean and the finish is very good, if sometimes appearing a bit “industrial” in its unblemished yet somehow sterile look. The aroma is more exciting, and unusual, with woody, cinnamon notes dominating initially, followed by a candy cherry sweetness, then hints of tobacco and almond. There is something of the Porcelana character in there, but also something else, more reminiscent of a Madagascar Sambirano. Still, noble origins all round, and one expects an impressive chocolate.

That’s when it all goes wrong: one bites in and…nothing. No flavour. It just doesn’t seem to arrive no matter how much one strains to find it. Perhaps there are some hints of the woodiness and the tobacco, a suggestion of the almond. Later again, more very ethereal suggestions of the cinnamon and some honey might be present, or then again might just be a figment of an imagination trying to find taste where there isn’t any. Regardless of whether this is a Porcelana, it must certainly be a very delicate, mild bean, and Marcolini seems to have made the incomprehensible decision to bash it into submission.

The excellence of the texture, supremely smooth and effortlessly creamy, gives obvious indication that the cocoa butter content is simply overwhelming. That seems to be at the heart of the problem: Marcolini has taken what might well be a lovely source and drowned it in cocoa butter. Porcelana-type beans if anything need less cocoa butter, not more, than average and this interpretation seems to be an overconched, overfatty bar that conveys little except a texture. At the price being asked of it, furthermore, this is inexcusable. Marcolini surely means well, but needs to look very long and hard about what he’s getting out of this in terms of chocolate. This one needs thorough reformulation and redoing.

About the Author

Alex Rast
Alex Rast is a long-time chocolate experimenter, taster and part-time consultant to chocolate companies. Starting in 1990 with early experiments himself in making chocolate, he quickly moved into evaluating chocolates in commercial production and assisting other companies in improving process. Over the course of many years he has evaluated over 700 distinct chocolate bars. He is one of the earliest reviewers for SeventyPercent and has helped to define and systematise the ratings system. In addition to bar chocolate, he also experiments with chocolate baking and the formulation of "canonical" recipes for classic chocolate items.



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