As part of a recent chocolate buying splurge I picked up this Valrhona Alpaco 66% dark chocolate bar for £1.45 because it was coming up to the end of its ‘best before’ date. Normally its £3.45 at The Chocolate Trading Co.. Having tried the delicious Caraibe 66% I couldn’t wait to tuck into this one.
Just like I’m sure Big Macs are getting smaller, this bar is also deceptive. In the box it looks large, but it’s deceptively so as the bar is only 70g in weight. Valrhona have gone down the Artisan du Chocolat route and produced thin bars. There is are advantages to this, however, and that’s the bar is much easier to snap than say Amano and if you promise yourself to only have two or three squares then you may end up consuming less. The problem is that these funky French chocolatiers don’t ‘do’ squares. Instead they prefer to go down the irregular shapes route. This courses you to sometimes have a smaller piece than others.
The aroma is soft and delicate and with a very slight acidity combined with a moderate chalkiness. But that’s where the positives end. Even at 66% which is generally as low as I like to go to have a gourmet bar of chocolate I found it too sweet. Also I’d say that Ecuadorian cacao isn’t my favourite origin and even though this Arriba cacao from the Los Rios region is supposed to be a fine cacao, I have my doubts. Even though on the first taste I had nice subtle cherry flavours and subsequent tastings various other notes including a strange root beer characteristic, it just failed to grab hold of my senses as I’d expect from Valrhona. It just got very boring, very quickly.
It almost has no flavour. Only at the very end comes any sort of acidity – but it’s gone within a flash. And as any personality departs, a very strange grittiness comes in to play. It’s almost like the granular feel you get with chocolate Slim Fast ‘milk shake’. Before that you get to that stage you’ll notice that the texture during the melt texture is average, nothing more. And that’s a fantastic adjective to use to describe this bar – that and uninspiring, dissapointing and very ‘maganolia’. At £1.45 its good value if you want to introduce someone to fairly dark chocolate that’s only ever witnessed milk chocolate. It should be acceptable to them. To true dark chocolate lovers it’s like having Tesco’s own brand baked beans when you could have Heinz.