Vanini Chocolate is a brand of large Italian chocolate maker ICAM who have been around for over 60 years. This new range of bars is made in Italy from Peruvian cocoa. It’s bean-to-bar chocolate but on an industrial scale. There are six bars in the range, three milk and three dark, and I was sent them all to try.
First a word about the packaging. It looks quite attractive with a modern feel combined with traditional Mayan-looking designs. In the shops, these bars will have to compete with the likes of Lindt and I certainly think they have the edge over the competition.
The card wrappers are really easy to open, but my one complaint here is that they don’t seem to be resealable in any way. Once opened up, the box can’t be stuck back down, and the sealed inner foil has to be torn open. A minor complaint, but I’m never going to eat a whole 100g bar in one go, so it would be nice to be able to close the pack up after taking a square.
I thought I’d start my tasting session with the two unflavoured bars in the collection.
86% Dark Chocolate
This is obviously quite a high cocoa percentage, but that seems to be the trend for some of the higher end mass market brands these days. The first thing I noticed when I opened it though was the strong aroma of vanilla, which I found a little disappointing.
Traditionally, vanilla is added to chocolate to cover up any bad flavours, but with a finer flavour cocoa like these bars use, it shouldn’t strictly be necessary – at least not to the extent that it’s been used here.
That vanilla comes through in the taste too, although thankfully not as strong as the aroma. In fact, it turns out to be quite a pleasant and munchable dark chocolate. There’s little in the way of bitterness, and although there’s quite a strong cocoa powder flavour, you do get just a hint of natural fruitiness. It’s not much, but it’s there. It’s certainly much nicer than the equivalent high percentage Lindt bars.
49% Milk Chocolate
At the other end of the scale we have the plain milk chocolate. I say plain milk, but at 49% cocoa solids, it has roughly two and a half times more cocoa than the likes of Dairy Milk, and you won’t find any nasty added vegetable fats or flavourings here.
Although the flavour is a little more “milk” than it is “chocolate” and there isn’t much complexity to it, I still enjoyed this bar. It’s not too sweet and it’s very pleasant to nibble on.
49% Milk Chocolate With Orange Peel
This bar (pictured above) is made with the same milk chocolate with the addition of candied orange peel and orange oil. I’m never quite sure about orange chocolate because it always ends up reminding me of Terry’s Chocolate Orange – something I used to quite like but now find sweet and sickly.
This bar is still a little orangey for me. Despite being made with natural ingredients, I always find the combination of chocolate and orange tastes a little artificial. Not really my cup of tea, but a step up from the old fashioned chocolate orange. I know many people who will love this one.
49% Milk Chocolate With Sicilian Sea Salt
This bar again uses the same milk chocolate, this time with just a touch of salt. There may be just 0.3% salt in this bar but it lifts the flavour wonderfully. It’s somehow more chocolatey and even a little sweeter. I liked this one a lot.
74% Dark Chocolate With Nibs
A slightly sweeter dark chocolate with crunchy cocoa nibs. There’s a sweetness and very subtle fruitiness to this chocolate, but it’s not particularly complex. What’s clear is that a lot of thought has gone into the amount of sugar in the chocolate. The result is a nice balance of sweetness and intensity and a very munchable dark chocolate.
62% Dark Chocolate With Rosemary
Certainly the most unusual flavour of this collection, but also my favourite. The small pieces of rosemary in this bar have been sugared to give a great crunch while taking off the savoury edge from what from this strongly flavoured herb.
The result is something that works incredibly well – if you like rosemary! The flavour is sweet at first, then develops a gentle spiciness with a rosemary flavour that lingers after the chocolate has melted. This is one of those chocolates that really shouldn’t work quite as well as it does, and I’m really happy to see something a little different make it through to a more mainstream chocolate brand.
Overall, I’m impressed with the balance of quality and value of these Vanini chocolate bars. They aren’t craft chocolate, but they are a step up in quality from supermarket chocolate and even the likes of Lindt.
They’re not widely available in the UK yet, but I’m sure they will be soon. In the mean time, you can pick them up for 3 Euros a piece from the Vanini website.