Fortunato No. 4

by Marañón Canyon
Info Details
Country Peru   (via Switzerland)
Type Semi-Dark   (68%)
Strain Nacional   
Source Peru   (Maranon Canyon)
Flavor Fruits & Flowers   
Style Classic      
FULL DISCLOSURE: the C-spot™ consulted in the development of this chocolate

From Marañón Canyon Cacao’s treasure groves of genuine Nacional – verified & unveiled as of January 2011 – this the initial commercial release.

So named to honor the grower whose orchard contained the mother tree. Fortunato hit the motherlode quick: his was just the 4th in the order tested for DNA by geneticists Lyndel Meinhardt & Dapeng Zhang proving its worth. The cache then fell into the able hands of a notable, though for contractual obligations anonymous, Swiss Manufacturer (“SM”) using the original longitudinal conches belonging to Rudolph Lindt from 1879 that lap the cocoa liquor back & forth ever so slowly & gently oxidize the volatiles, rolling some off while tucking the rest into the body of the bar. (Lindt’s factory was the first to employ a conche machine for chocolate making purposes. It produces smoother texture for that modern standard of refined chocolate – the luscious molten meltdown.)

Sui generis... so conjuring that these chocolate co-conspirators struck a deal with the devil. That’s how demonic & wily it tastes.

Fortunato No. 4 virtually parallels the tale of Fortunatus (Latin for the Italian Fortunato) – the proto-novel of feudal Europe. It follows the life of Fortunatus from poor obscurity (his Dad squandered the family’s savings by the time Fortunatus turned 10) thru to his adventures to fame & fortune.

Like father / like son, Fortunatus was also once well-to-do, then left penniless wandering from place to place ‘til he found himself lost in a deep forest, without any path, little light, no food & scarce water... unable to find his way out.

Suddenly one night he beholds a beautiful woman in the darkness: “I am Dame Fortune & I’ve a gift for you. Shall it be wisdom, strength, long life, riches, health, or beauty? Think well, & tell me what you’ll have."

Fortunatus, lending truth to the maxim "Tis ill thinking on an empty stomach," rushes an answer, "Good lady, let me have riches in such plenty that I may never again be as hungry as I am now."

She grants him a purse with 10 gold pieces that are immediately replenished whenever he makes a withdrawal from it. She then points the way out of the woods & he begins life anew in the lap of luxury.

With this wealth, he travels to many lands & eventually meets the Sultan in Cairo. Among the treasures that the Sultan owns is a red cap with the power to transport its wearer to any place desired. Fortunatus puts the cap on & away he went, much to the chagrin of the Sultan who thereafter missed his prized possession.

Upon death, Fortunatus left the purse & cap to his sons. Being reckless & jealous of each other, they frittered it all away.

The tale marks the passing of feudalism into modern, globalized capitalism. It conveys the moral that people would be wise to desire wisdom above all else, without which it becomes far too easy to lose one’s way... & subsequently fortune.

The collective judgment of those involved in this bar of chocolate demonstrates that the lesson is being heeded.

Because of it, the fate of cacáo appears brighter.

One bite of this lost treasure transports to the very terra of a far-away land. Its rediscovery returns rare perfumes & restores archetypal characteristics to the planet’s chocolate depository. An incunabula recovered from a bygone era of how it might have been.

Unless you're over 100 years old, you've probably had nothing like it.

Damn the ratings, such as they are (always ephemeral / perishable at any rate), quantified into a slippery 8.19. Scripture tells us that man does not live by bread alone. The manner in which Marañón Canyon Cacao goes about its business, sustainable in the true sense of the word, treating every aspect from the environment (naturally organic) to the economics (beyond FairTrade... a SweetExchange) &, most vitally, the social (genuine partnership based on solidarity) - those 3Ps: People / Planet / Prosperity - earns this, at least symbolically, a perfect 10.

In a word, heartfelt.

Appearance   3.8 / 5
Color: pallid
Surface: smoothly stratified inside & out save for some airholes
Temper: thin veneer
Snap: a cinder block
Aroma   9.1 / 10
for the squishy strawberries ‘n cream crowd enamored w/ little teacups of their favorite treat this smacks the nasal passages w/ too great a sense of a berry-patch (boysen, june, elder & gooseberries – a berry jam ‘n cream really -- incl their blossoms + feijoa & hibiscus) trucked in on a lite caramel pickup; aerates smoked Peru balsam wood; nirvanic
Mouthfeel   12.2 / 15
Texture: sugared grain
Melt: slow to slip the bonds... once it does, it disaggregates into liquid fat, then greasy, & finally lotion
Flavor   45 / 50
Exhibits maddening levels of variability, beguiling beyond seasonal vintages or even batches, but between each tasting of the exact same bar. It has nothing to do with any assumed idiosyncrasies regarding palate, viz., that perceptions change from one day to the next depending on what one ate for breakfast, or the weather, or the newspaper’s astrological forecast. When a reference control bar, used to A/B or compare against the test bar, nets identical results & holds constant time & again, then any changes detected in the test bar between tastings are on the chocolate rather than the palate.

Using that protocol, Marañón Cacáo makes for one dynamic chocolate. Fragility defined. Minute oxidation alters the profile dramatically. Allowing it to breathe, to decanter so to speak, is almost a necessity.

It alternates between predominate Fruits ‘n Flowers, then darkens, coarsens into a mudslide, & flattens out completely to stringent coffee grounds (almost strident too; a café-sour such as it is)... but don’t give up, it returns back again to former splendor, only fuller... all in the space of 3 different tastings in a couple days!

Safe to state that on average the front lip catches citrus berry radials cut with a tannic cocoa, the latter suggestive of some smoked budwood branch as if still hanging on their (burning) bush, aerating into phantom floral wreaths around balsam of Peru before a rapturous milk chocolate clearing (those White Seeds perhaps?; a real glory moment in any event) vaporizes the flowers. Specifically: smoked hickory malt -> vanilla caramel -> settles into its truer character: faint berry radials gleaned originally in the Aromatics (though mainly moraberry here) -> cut w/ a tannic, pricker-sharp cocoa stem -> exudes phantom fuchsia & waranway around balsam of Peru -> Milk Chocolate clearing to a biriba pocket... in the afterglow more delicately dappled flowers strobed by peach palm + orange blossoms.

Above all, Fortunato No. 4 ages terrifically / beautifully. Over the course of many months & well past a year, it evolves to please.

What will be its outer limit?

Currently, most Dark Chocolate bars carry an expiration date of 2 years from manufacture. Why 2 years? Nothing scientific or research related documents anything determinative about 2 years. Could it just be convention adopted ever since Dr. Juan de Cárdenas completed Problems y Secretos Maravillosos da las Indias (The Problems & Secret Methods of the Indies) in 1591. He recommends that chocolate can be kept for up to 2 years. Being a physician, maybe people simply accepted what he had to say & followed him blindly. Where did Cárdenas come up with the 2-year figure & did he subject it to any testing?

Fortunato No. 4 may add yet another distinction to its growing list: that of setting new norms for Vintage Chocolate.
Quality   15.9 / 20
Governator Arnold Schwarzeneggar might say - 'girlie chocolate harboring a fierce inner-prick bulked up & rubbed with cocoa butter to morph into this beautiful female bodybuilder.'

Calling this ‘fine-chocolate’ stretches the term a bit. An industrial firm manufactured it, antique equipment notwithstanding. Its very size prohibits that hallmark of every artisan quality good – the personal touch. At such scale, temperature gauges & processing duration must be determined as a mean average set for the whole production rather than led by the artisan’s nose batch-by-batch.

As such, Fortunato No. 4 shows shades of Felchlin’s Centenario... that an underachiever; this underwhelming, lacking as expected for this cultivar punch & power but, moreover, clarity too (which this demands).

The addition of cocoa butter obscures the package; quite extraneous considering a cacáo endowed with an inherent soft pad detected in its more naked, albeit imbalanced, 75% prototype. In fact, the Swiss made a mistake in the formulation by adding 6% cocoa butter -- completely unadvised & contrary to expectations.

Further, the viscous mouthfeel delays rather than broadens the taste horizon, butter retarding the bouquet without contributing enough lubricant to counter the noticeable grain in the Texture caused by 32% or so sugaring on account of a lazy longitudinal conche of 60 friction-only / low-heat hours failing to coat all the particles sufficiently in the suspension. Instead of carrying the perfume, it diffuses it... & vaguely.

SM also rides the roast a little high (the smoke-filled entrance) so by the time the liquor does reach its fabled longitudinal conche, it has limited its options for that stage.

All understandable given how this cacáo rings mostly in the upper register with thin bottom notes - & some bittering at that - so they sought to buttress them, sacrificing this bean’s vibrancy, leaving in its wake merely flowered vapors. To its credit, SM crafts better symmetry because of it, creating a bottom end difficult to achieve with this particular Nacional, including a trace caramel to suspect some vanilla smear (though none actually added). The other factor impossible to ignore: the Canyon produces allotments of 60/40 purple anthocyanin beans to porcelana-like white beans, each taking the heat differently, with the purple largely responsible for the acidity & the white the cream caramel roll.

Finally, the percentage recalls the handling of Cru Sauvage – yet another cacáo whose structure easily supports a mid 70% to low 80% threshold (later confirmed by De Vries & Zotter). Ditto Felchlin's treatment of Madagascar. Something about what the Swiss views as ‘delicate’ origins (& make no mistake, Marañon Canyon, to repeat, defines ‘fragile’) steers them into semisweet formulations instead of relying on the more intrinsic qualities of the bean & shaping them minus excessive sugar. In the process, they’ve taken one problem needing to be solved & exchanged it for another needing to be dissolved.

Even so, a transformational chocolate that should convince tongues of the coming & the glory of... a special cacáo... that has yet to meet its ultimate maker. One that dispenses with the butter, boosts the cacáo-count to about 72% & caresses this beauty to full, au natural fruition that lets this F-4 fly.

ING: cocoa mass, sugar, cacáo butter; CBS (Cocoa mass /Butter/Sugar): 3:4:3

Reviewed 1/11/11


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