Sainsbury’s join the trend of supermarkets entering the fray of “fine” chocolate using house-branded chocolates from various origins. This one will tick all the right boxes for the environmentally conscious, and furthermore the Dominican Republic produces some very fine chocolate, so there’s interest here, perhaps more so than others in the Sainsbury’s line. Mystery as to the producer (which is apparently German) is the one major X-factor; it’s unclear whether the chocolate will be good or bad. But with a price far below that of most fine chocolate, there is at least little financial risk, so it’s justifiable to try it at least once.
Alex Rast: 22-May-2011
Sainsbury’s delivers a total shock to the world of fine chocolate in the form of a great chocolate at the price of ¬£1.32. Just how they’ve achieved this miracle is unclear, especially given that the chocolate is Fair Trade, but the fact remains that not only is this bar among the best organic chocolates, it’s among the best chocolates, period. Most of the time house-branded bars are marked by reasonable but not outstanding quality: enough usually to attract attention and gain a market footing, but not enough to really impress. Not here. It seems Sainsbury’s has gotten serious about good chocolate, and has made a genuine effort to produce something worthwhile. The end result is a new development: genuine fine chocolate for the masses.
Out of the box, this chocolate already looks different; not the sinister black of so many house-blend chocolates but a pleasing red-brown, and with a superb finish that bears few traces of defect. It’s clear that at least decent beans are going in here, but nonetheless it’s the aroma that really makes it clear. It’s a classic, spicy blend: with clove and pepper, something like Chinese 5-spice, predominating initially with a hint of balsamic, and then cherry. There’s much here that is reminiscent of Domori, that powerful pungency, those bright notes. Unquestionably this chocolate has promise. But will it deliver?
Yes. Unequivocally yes. The flavour is astonishingly complex, starting off with a cherry burst, then briefly grape. Next molasses mixed with nuts add a more mellow background, which revives into cinnamony spiciness with pleasant woody hints. Complex, yet balanced: they have managed to capture almost all the flavour dimensions chocolate has in a single bar, without having them clash. From a single-origin, this is remarkable. Sainsbury’s appears to have resurrected Domori’s long-gone, much mourned Chacao from the grave.
Texture, too, doesn’t miss a beat: super-smooth and creamy, just as it should be. Supermarket labels like “Taste the Difference” tend not to mean much, but here they do: you can taste the difference. The flavours leave little doubt, furthermore, that the basic source is the same as was that for Domori Chacao. Now, who is the mystery producer? A manufacturer with this level of mastery needn’t hide in the shadows: it’s time he came forward into the limelight to receive his fully deserved share of acclaim. Furthermore given the volume in which this bar is being made it defies the odds: quality beans aren’t usually to be found at this scale. This manufacturer is doing something very, very special to extract this level of flavour out of this volume of beans. But on Sainsbury’s part there is an equally commendable achievement: they’ve take fine chocolate and made it genuinely accessible to the masses, not in the sense of having unintimidating flavours but in the sense of providing a price point within the reach of the common man – and in this regard this chocolate is unquestionably the best value chocolate in the world.