More than just Kansas begs this question – the title of Thomas Frank’s political diatribe against that heartland state (as if there’s nothing wrong with Manhattan). Still, he has a point; as does this entry.

It’s been a while since a bar from Madagascar has knocked the tongue off… other than in a blistering way. Ever since Vestri’s sunshine-in-a-bar & the stellar Madagared by Domori, precious little measures up, unless for use as bleach in the rinse cycle. Rare, if any, red berry definition. Ditto the nuts. If lucky maybe a ‘hint’ (to use a term on the C-spotList of Banned Words) of starfruit &/or lychee. Count the recent washouts: Mast Bros, Åkesson, Theo, even the exorbitantly awarded Amano.

Bar-smiths themselves are grumbling under their breath. None will announce publicly for fear of losing sales what they’re unafraid to utter privately, for how could they then hawk bars from beans already bought? It’d be the same as GM admitting late-model Buicks were poorly built cars. Hence, the C-spot™: to get past the incestuous relations & PR talk, blow off the husk & cut right to the nib.

Archetypal Madagascar cacáos, endowed with relatively scant base notes to begin with, bank on bright headnotes. Should those randomize, it loses clarity & leaves ‘strip-chocolate’ which may work for steaks in a pub but not for these kind of a bars.

Before declaring that cacáo there has permanently seen better days, such as the case for Ecuador where the vast majority of cacáo trees stand in a messpool, Madagascar’scrop may be suffering from the opposite of The Dominican Republic – poor or less than ideal weather, at least for the 2008/09 vintage. This could prove a model experiment for the ‘Vintage Keepers’, those chocolatarians who’ve seized on Valrhona’s practice of dating Grand Cru bars by the annual harvest (technically it should be done semi-annually since most cacáo growing regions harvest twice a year with a marked difference between dry & rainy seasons).

Allowing a bar to mature under climate-controlled settings (‘55-55’ storage — cellar-temperature ~ 55ºF / >55% humidity [though a 2009 study by Lia Andrae-Nightingale suggests 94% RH as optimal]) may round off sharp edges & mellow a chocolate’s overall profile. Whether it could focus the resolution & add hues to such bright acidity of recent Madagascars remains to be seen… for aging chocolate is rather novel & ongoing, requiring years of evaluation. That the process seems to soften flavor tags might be due to re-partitioning of cacao compounds along sugar’s surface. As sugar absorption proceeds over time, we can expect further binding plus the resulting volatile decrease & lessened astringency. Changes to the tannic structure could then translate into background notes dropping down relative to higher foreground notes that may create sharper definition of flavors by way of altered contrast. That’s the theory at least.

All of which underscores the C-spot’s™ caveat that ratings & reviews are highly ephemeral, as seasonal as each & every cacáo harvest, & should be used solely as a general navigational guide for each person’s own chocolate discoveries.

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