I was recently invited to an Italian themed ‘tasting’ evening by the lovely Rafaella Baruzzo (she of the amazing Sicilian Lemons in chocolate fame), and at the end of the evening I was given a few things to take home and review.
This is one of two Vestri bars I received, and it’s a handmade single origin bar which uses 71% Dominican Republic cocoa from (I assume) the Hacienda Vista Allgre. Vestri are based in Arezzo, Tuscany, and as far as I can tell do not yet have a UK distributor for their products (although I suspect Baruzzzo chocolates might be a potential supplier). A little research tells me that the Vestri family business is now in it’s second generation, and that the beans used for this bar are grown on a plantation owned by the family. The beans are then shipped to Arezzo for processing. There are no chemicals or pesticides used during the growing of the cacao, but the finished product doesn’t have any organic certification on it (I know not why).
I cannot recall ever having sampled single origin Dominican Republic cocoa before, so I was quite keen to get inside the rather attractive box.
On the nose this chocolate exudes light, fragrant notes of leather and citrus, almost sweet and very powerful. The chocolate isn’t too glossy to look at but still has a good snap to it.
The really interesting stuff happens when this chocolate meets the palate. The first set of flavours is amazingly light and complex. An almost honey-like sweet top note from the cane sugar mingles with the citrussy, floral flavours of the cocoa. The chocolate remains light on the palate, melting quickly (almost reminiscent of some of the raw chocolate I’ve sampled) with a very smooth, light mouthfeel. It leaves the palate totally clean and ready for the next bite. And the next. I did wonder if the sweetness might be too much, but repeat tastings suggest that not all of that sweetness is down to the cane sugar – the cocoa seems to have it’s own sweet flavour which amplifies the flavours of the cane sugar. In some ways it reminded me of the Australian Handmade honey bar I reviewed a year or two ago, although such a comaprison does seriously understate the complex flavours offered here.
For a 71% cocoa dark chocolate this really does have an amazingly light texture and mouthfeel. Every time I tried a piece the honey notes were there at the start, slowly giving way to the fragrant cocoa which had that wonderful, slightly sharp citrus taste with darker undertones of semi-sweet cacao always bubbling away underneath.
Based on this showing, I’d say that Vestri was definitely a company to keep an eye out for, and I do hope that someone (preferably Rafaella Baruzzo) starts selling this stuff in the UK.