Valrhona – Chuao 2002

It has been stated by many consumers (me included) that Amedei has the superior Chuao, while Bonnat’s is a close second. Well, I recently got my hands on a Valrhona Chuao from 2002 and was somewhat eager to try it. I say “somewhat” because I tasted the 2003 vintage in its final days and was sorely disappointed. The chocolate was unlike any Chuao I had tasted previously, and I wasn’t sorry to see that origin go the wayside.

I’ve heard good things about this 2002 vintage, yet whenever I check Chocosphere, plenty of these “limited” bars are stocked in their inventory, ready for all those avid fans who praise it to no end. (Ironic, huh?)

Valrhona Chuao 2002I have to admit, though, the bar has a wonderful sheen that looks as if it were molded and tempered just weeks ago. In fact, the bar is very pretty, delivering much more visual awe than what we see from Valrhona today. The aroma, too, is strong and characteristic of a bar molded recently, never waning in intensity or approaching a dreadful flatness that older bars tend to do. Father time, apparently, had missed this vintage in his all-encompassing embrace.

The flavor, though intense and good on its own, does not resonate with what one would typically associate with Chuao. Lemony and herbal, alluding to lemon balm, this flavor is crisp and soft, eventually leading to more familiar berries and blueberries, but these eventually disappear as lemon recommissions the length. The intensity meanwhile is what one would expect from Chuao, partially satisfying my expectations yet in other ways leaving them unfulfilled.

So, what are my conclusions? It could be said that applying the Chuao moniker to this chocolate sets one up for a deflating experience. However, since my previous investigations into the sourcing issues in Chuao have led me to a slightly narrower road on the path to enlightenment, I think I should treat this bar with much more clemency than I would have before my research. I can still be critical, though, and wonder if in fact this bar is 100% Chuao, 75% Chuao, or even 40% Chuao. There is Chuao in here, that much is certain, but how much?

I do like the bar and would certainly accept more if given the offer. It’s far better than the 2003 vintage, and like I said, it’s great on its own, with associations and expectations detached, of course.

Now, I ponder to myself: “Why did Valrhona cease Chuao production, and why did Amedei continue?” After eliminating guerilla warfare, payment of gambling debts, and a vicious game of rock, paper, scissors from the list of possible explanations, I wound up with these two theories:

  1. Valrhona realized that their Chuao could not compete with Amedei’s version and decided to invest their efforts into something more worthwhile and profitable. After all, Valrhona has a reputation to maintain.
  2. Amedei bullied out Valrhona and hogged all the cacao, which is the prevailing theory. This, of course, invites the question: “How can Bonnat legally produce a Chuao bar?” This question I attempted to answer here: Amedei vs. Bonnat

3 Responses to Valrhona – Chuao 2002

  1. Olorin says:

    Very insightful. I always enjoy your reviews, and this one induces me to hold off on the Val Chuao. Personally, I’ve always favored the rock, paper, scissors theory.

    Oh yeah, I also wanted to ask– is it typical for chocolate bars to last 5 years and still be good? I thought they would bloom and/or dry out over time. What’s your experience?

  2. Hans-Peter says:

    Thanks! Well, from what I’ve heard, the cocoa butter crystals break down over time so that after, say five years, the bar’s texture and flavor will be very distasteful. You’d have to temper the chocolate to regain the desirable crystalline form. I have a couple Domori bars (Puro and Blend No. 1) from 2004, though, so I’ll let you know how they taste in a year or so 😉

  3. Hey guys. Thanks for the great info about Chuao from Valrhona – and the rest af this great blog.

    Do any of you know, which year Valrhona started making their first single estate chocolates. I thought it alle started with Gran Couva in 2004, but that cannot be true with a Chuao from 2002.

    I have been selling them all from the beginning, but I cannot remember which came first. The only thing I remember is that chuao suddently disappeared and in came Ampamakia from Madagascar.

    By the way, I have just been to Trinidad and visited Gran Couva, so if I can help you with any info, please tell me.

    Best regards,
    Emil Nielsen, Denmark

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