Valrhona – Gran Couva 2010
  • Our rating: 85.1% (3 reviews)
  • Company:
  • Cacao solids: 64%
  • Guide Price: £4.50, €5.00, $8.00
  • Description by: Martin Christy
  • Production: Produced directly from beans by maker
  • Certification:
    • None
  • Ingredients:
    • cocoa beans from Trinidad
    • sugar
    • cocoa butter
    • emulsifier (soya lecithin)
    • natural vanilla extract

The Trinidad sun rises over Gran Couva. Harvesters from the plantation open cocoa pods with a machete and remove the precious cocoa beans. The first “Chocolat de Domaine” has just arrived.

Valrhona – Gran Couva 2010Chocolate Review Rating: 85.1% out of 100 based on 3 reviews.

Valrhona – Gran Couva 2010

Valrhona - Gran Couva 2010

Valrhona - Gran Couva 2010

The original plantation cacao bar, from a source first suggested to Valrhona by Robert Linxe of La Maison du Chocolat. Also the first bar to really be marketed by its year of production or ‘vintage’. (Though laying down for 100 years is not likely to improve the chocolate!)

First produced in 2002 (if memory serves us correctly), Gran Couva was both an inspired production and marketing move by Valrhona – we only really had country origin bars before Gran Couva, and not too many of those either. Since then the origin world has really taken off, and we should never neglect Valrhona’s role in all of this.

Gran Couva was surpassed though by the bars that followed in Valrhona’s ‘Vintage’ range, and seemed to get a bit more ‘average’ each year.

2010 is a different story though, with the bar at least being back in the top league as a well-crafted example of the chocolate makers art.

If our sources are correct, this has been helped by the introduction of new clones in the plantation – chosen for improved flavour.

Reviews

Georg Bernardini: 18-Feb-2012

Posted: February 18, 2012 by
SCORES Score/10 Weight
Aroma: 10%
Look/snap: 5%
Taste: 35%
Melt: 5%
Length: 15%
Opinion: 30%
Total/100: 100%
INFO
Best before:
Batch num:
Source:
Supplied by:

Gran Couva is already a “classic” bar and always from good quality. No negative surprises, but also not a high flyer.
In my opinion the chocolate should have more cocoa solid than 64% and, as it is a single plantation chocolate, Valrhona should not add vanilla to the chocolate.

The look is, like almost always for a Valrhona chocolate, very good. Nice shape, brown-mahagony-coulour, clean and strong snap.

The aroma is mild-sweet and of course you can taste the added vanilla, but also figues, toffee, mellasse and red berries.

The chocolate has a sweet taste due to the low cocoa solids. For me a little bit too sweet, but still ok and round.

The melt is again Valrhona-likley almost perfect. Slow, smooth and pleasant, the lenght ok.

In total this chocolate is a little bit too sweet, but with a nice aroma profile, balanced and round. A good chocolate to those who start the experience of dark chocolate.

Martin Christy: 23-Feb-2011

Posted: February 23, 2011 by
SCORES Score/10 Weight
Aroma: 10%
Look/snap: 5%
Taste: 35%
Melt: 5%
Length: 15%
Opinion: 30%
Total/100: 100%
INFO
Best before:
Batch num:
Source:
Supplied by:

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.

Stuart Robson: 23-Feb-2011

Posted: February 23, 2011 by
SCORES Score/10 Weight
Aroma: 10%
Look/snap: 5%
Taste: 35%
Melt: 5%
Length: 15%
Opinion: 30%
Total/100: 100%
INFO
Best before:
Batch num:
Source:
Supplied by:

Valrhona’s annual release from Trinidad has seen some highs and lows over the years but things look pretty good at the start here. The colour is somewhat dark but has some touches of mahogany set against a typically well-tempered finish. The snap is fairly bright and the break particularly clean; all very Valrhona. 

The aroma is robust and rich; hints of toasted nuts sit alongside lightly roasted coffee and liquorice root. A few slightly troubling notes of rubber and fresh plastic come and go. There are some mixed spices on offer also but the impression is rather vague, with only the typically undefined fruity cast so often displayed by this producer adding any high notes. 

On the palette the initial impression is of sweet brown sugar, a splash of honey, clove and a hint of toasted hazelnut. This is a sweet profile overall but there is a brief spike of the aforementioned vaguely citric, fruity acidity in the mid palette though it quickly gives way to more earthy toasted nuts, tobacco leaf, leather and spices. In the finish things take a distinct turn into malt, candied ginger and more cloves, which bring this rather enjoyable yet monotone profile to a close. The melt is as expected from Valrhona, slow, even and near enough flawlessly smooth. 

This is a decent year for Gran Couva, the profile is just as balanced, sweet, buttery and rounded as ever but here I can’t shake the feeling that had the roast been just a touch lighter, a few more characters might have had the chance to shine. With this in mind, the profile is a little vague and nondescript in 2010, and shows again that maybe the world of fine chocolate has moved on a little too fast for Valrhona. That being said, there is always a place for a bar that is well crafted, comforting and familiar; in this, Gran Couva certainly succeeds. 

Valrhona's typical, high quality finish.

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