Madagascar 100% Criollo

by Bonnat
Info Details
Country France   
Type Dark   (75%)
Strain Criollo   (speculatively)
Source Madagascar   (Sambirano Valley)
Flavor Naked   
Style Rustic      
Dinner avec Monsieur Bonnat... a scary pleasure. Picture one of those notable ‘oo la la’ dining temples in Manhattan’s Chelsea district. 3 Americans, 1 German (Georg Bernardini, ex-Coppeneur exec) & a Stéphane Bonnat sitting next to him & opposite them. After a sip of some NYC tap water poured by the wait staff, Stéphane meditates on it for awhile, then asks ‘What do people think of NYC water?’.

Ahem, well, Stéphane, "it’s considered the best municpal water source in the country, perhaps the world", one of the locals proclaims. Further, she continues on, it’s so highly esteemed that enterprising New Yorkers living on the West Coast sell bottled NYC tap water in California because LA’s faucets are flowing with recycled liquid from a hi-tech raw sewage treatment plant.

Unimpressed, Stéphane gestures the same way an oenophile would spit into a bucket upon rejecting a bottle.

Jesus, the starter courses had yet to even be ordered & he’s already deep into it.

How dare he insult Americans, especially in front of a German guest.

Of course he’s right, just as he was right on the money during a blind-tasting later that evening in hitting the cacáo-content of a then-anonymous chocolate bar yet to be released -- to the exact percentage (68%). Pretty freakin’ good.

So when Bonnat releases a “Madagascar 100% Criollo” bar you can bet it’s kinda of a blague, to use a French term, or 'joke'. A marketing test that leverages the magic abracadabra words of chocolate: 100% & Criollo, no less together.

Nothing technically wrong here. Criollo, revered as the queen diva of all cacáo, possibly did venture to Madagascar, one of the beauty spas along the empress’ travels across the Pacific from Mesoamerica starting at least as early as the 1660s. Any cacáo that contains even a nanodot of Criollo germplasm is 100%... for that portion, that is.

To riff the prophet Rick James -- prestige is a helluva drug, bitch.

But 100% is usually reserved for unsweetened chocolate sans any fillers, no? True, which BTW turns out to be a huge seller nowadays since guys especially buy it for the presumed health benefits attributed to cacáo’s antioxidants.

So Stéphane produces this bar in service of a higher purpose. Namely, a) though people can see, the public marketplace is blind to the dark activities happening behind the scenes; & b) OMG how push-button ads & buzzwords move consumers when quality chocolate should rise & fall on its own merits, & should generate buzz all its own, no matter what it’s called.

Ahhh... branding in a global environment heated-up with fierce competition that makes earning money honestly a real mother. Just ask a corner gansta, or any family breadwinner, or the President.

Gore Vidal, always useful in these situations, said the only way to acquire clean money is to marry it.

Thank you, Stéphane Bonnat, for reminding everyone of the cardinal virtues.
Appearance   4.6 / 5
customized detailing
Color: light magenta brown
Surface: porcelain quality
Temper: professionally glazed
Snap: rapturous voice (high crisp lilt); slightly striated edge
Aroma   8.9 / 10
gorgeously layered -- 4 in all from the bottom up: chocolate (of considerable depth) -> woods (oak & katrafay) -> nuts (almond skins & pecans) -> fruit (mango, litchi & raspberry); intoxicating & sedated
Mouthfeel   11.8 / 15
Texture: waxen for thick, heavy body
Melt: plodding yet smooth
Flavor   4 / 50
mild cocoa w/ recessed wood panel framed in faint fruits -> core chocolate to the fore -> struck momentarily by white lightning (jack fruit + champagne grape + cycad) backed in those almond skins -> takes on litchi syrup -> peanuts down the gullet
Quality   15.2 / 20
Quite monotone & atypical for Madagascar, exhibiting none of the bright acid fruits associated with the island. Instead a very baseline & rather withdrawn cocoa further subdued in butter. The result is chocolate fatigue.

Sourced from Bertil Åkesson’s stand of pure White Criollo trees on his Millot property that may be a bunch of hybrids lacking an anthocyanin pigment gene. The same cacáo used in the bar more safely-labeled Madagared, inferring Gianluca Franzoni aka Mack Domori knew the what up too. Yet this bar here feels at a remove from even Domori’s which displayed an array of flavor & finesse.

A move by the USDA is afoot to test a sizable swatch of Madagascar’s crop to get the finer details of its genetic composition. Whether Åkesson participates & acquiesces to have these particular trees analyzed should be telling if not revealing.

However it all goes down, genetics is but one in a string of factors -- albeit perhaps the first among equals -- required for creating great chocolate.

ING: cocoa mass, cocoa butter, sugar

Reviewed January 2011


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