Qatar Duty Free - Valrhona
Written by Craig Butcher
Valrhona: The fine-dining ingredient now available to all
One of the world’s most famous chocolate brands, revered by Michelin-starred chefs; the high-cocoa-content marvels of French chocolatier Valrhona are increasingly available direct to the discerning. Craig Butcher reveals more.
Founded in 1922 in Tain-l’Hermitage, within the wine-growing region of the Rhône Valley in southern France from which its name is taken, today Valrhona is a byword for fine artisan chocolate. With its own cocoa plantations in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, Valrhona remains one of the select few chocolatiers to produce ‘bean-to-bar’ chocolate. This enables its master chocolatiers to exert their expertise and influence from the raw cocoa ingredients right through to the finished chocolate.
“Valrhona comes from years of expertise and has taken a unique step in mastering taste,” says Valrhona’s Céline Ha from her office near the Palace of Versailles in Paris. “Chefs enjoy using our chocolate because we use fine ingredients. Our chocolates are ‘grand cru’, which means selecting from specific beans. Mixing these according to the recipe and flavours that we want is our strength and our speciality.”
While Michelin-starred chefs have long been using Valrhona chocolate for their dessert creations, only in recent years have its chocolates become a little more widely available.
Valrhona’s house style typically has a sharp fruitiness derived from a lightly roasted cocoa bean, and a famous smoothness to the texture. But you can get an appreciation for its diverse range via its collection, an eight-bar ‘Grand Crus’ box showcasing an assortment of chocolate types and regions.
From the extremely high 70% cocoa of the Guanaja dark chocolate blend from South America, via the 40% cocoa of the Madagascar Tanariva milk chocolate through to the delightful ‘blonde’ chocolate of the 32% Dulcey, there’s a flavour profile to suit all tastes, each giving a sense of its terroir, or origin.
Many cocoa plantations have their roots in the exotic equatorial regions of the Caribbean, Latin America, and Africa. So it’s easy to believe that a little taste of the exotic is carried in every bar.
A Valrhona selection is now available at Qatar Duty Free in Hamad International Airport.
How chocolate is made
Around one in 1,000 flowers on a cacao tree will bear a cocoa pod containing cocoa beans inside. The finest beans are pressed to force out their ‘chocolate liquor’. The resulting cocoa solids and cocoa butter are then blended to create a unique flavour.