Gianduja is one of those old classics that everyone seems to love: chocolate mixed with hazelnuts. Almost all the best come from Italy, and with that in mind I decided to try 3 “elite” brands head to head:
Venchi, long the established champion, Guido Gobino, popular among
Italian connoisseurs and an “artisanal” manufacturer, and newcomer Amedei, just getting into gianduja but with, of course, an unassailable track record in “regular” chocolate.
The results were conclusive.
Amedei needs more time to perfect this one. Inexperience shows: the bar was conceptually fine but the balance was off. Aroma is nicely hazelnutty but smelled a bit too much of roast: overdone nuts, I think. There was something vaguely cardboardy here, although hints of butter were appealing. Flavour just never asserted itself. Maybe there was hazelnut in there but it wasn’t strong enough to be instantly identifiable, nor was chocolate recognisable either. The taste was just too elusive. Meanwhile the texture was quite good, rather like Amedei’s standard, but didn’t quite have that creaminess that the best gianduja has.
Gobino is obviously more technically proficient, if conceptually weaker. There is a strong hazelnut aroma, but again with slightly smoky notes: overroasting again. Cocoa and hazelnut both appear in the flavour. However there is a bizarre dead zone at the beginning and it’s far too sweet: a problem with balance. Here Amedei was a lot better. Furthermore the texture is problematic, rather coarse and a bit dry, with a poor melt. I get the impression Gobino is aiming for a minimally-processed effect, but until at least the sugar is reduced I think such a stylistic choice will be disappointing: the overall effect is a bit too much like hazelnut fudge. This is fine gianduja, let us not be mistaken, but it could definitely be improved.
The authoritative winner, then, was Venchi. The old masters once again demonstrated their absolute superiority. The aroma, to start,
is MUCH stronger and much more in balance than any of the others, with a fresher hazelnut presence along with some milky hints. No
suggestion of overroasting here. The flavour once again is powerful
and both hazelnutty and milky. The chocolate also is notable, although
it should be said that its coconut cast suggests less than the very best beans. This is perhaps the only flaw, for the texture is likewise
the definitive reference, that soft, creamy melt that is Gianduja at its most characteristic. I think I was surprised at the extent of the quality domination Venchi had, although the overall result is perhaps
to be expected. Still, it shows that in gianduja there is room for the same differences in quality level as in ordinary chocolate.