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A bite into Venchi choco­late, which has been around for nearly 140 years, could trans­port you to its birth­place in Pied­mont 意大利 Venchi 巧克力有近 140年的历史,每尝一口,都能感受到有别于法国和瑞士巧克力的“意大利灵魂”。

When­ever I travel to Italy, the search for gelato be­comes an epic ad­ven­ture. Last year, when I was there to cover the Venice Bi­en­nale, friends had rec­om­mended a gelato store that I sim­ply had to visit, so when I had some time off, I took to Venice’s many nar­row twist­ing al­leys to hunt it down.

Fi­nally, I lo­cated it, around the cor­ner from a Chi­nese restau­rant. Venchi, said the name at the store front; I had ar­rived. I asked for Venchi’s Gian­du­jotto gelato in the brightly-lit store. This tra­di­tional flavour from the city of Turin — the cap­i­tal of Pied­mont — is based on the clas­sic com­bi­na­tion of choco­late and hazel­nut.

About 430km away from Venice at the foot of the Alps is the re­gion of Pied­mont, where Ital­ian choco­late orig­i­nated. When we think of choco­late, we typ­i­cally think of coun­tries like France and Switzer­land, for­get­ting that Italy also has a long tra­di­tion of choco­late-mak­ing.

His­tor­i­cal records show that co­coa was first brought to Turin as part of the dowry of Cather­ine, the sec­ond daugh­ter of Span­ish monarch Philip II, in the 16th cen­tury. At that time, co­coa was used solely by the roy­als, to stim­u­late the senses. In 1678, chef Gio­vanni An­to­nio Ari be­came the first to re­ceive court per­mis­sion to op­er­ate a cioc­co­la­te­ria for six years. Some 350kg of choco­late were pro­duced there each day here; as the choco­late craze caught on, more shops opened and Turin be­came Italy’s choco­late cap­i­tal. Dur­ing the Napoleonic pe­riod, co­coa beans from South Amer­ica were in short sup­ply and lo­cal choco­late masters ex­er­cised their cre­ativ­ity, cre­at­ing Gian­du­jotto (also known as the pre­de­ces­sor to the Nutella spread) by mix­ing co­coa with hazel­nut, which was plen­ti­ful lo­cally.

In 1878, Sil­viano Venchi, an ap­pren­tice dessert-maker, struck out on his own and opened his first choco­late shop in Pied­mont. By 1905, Venchi had be­come a listed com­pany with more than 500 em­ploy­ees on its pay­roll. Sil­viano, him­self a ge­nius at desserts, mixed chopped hazel­nuts with caramel and choco­late to cre­ate the sweet known as nouga­tine, which be­came a best-sell­ing dessert that was supplied to var­i­ous cof­fee shops. Nouga­tine also be­came favoured by the court and Venchi was awarded a royal seal, mak­ing it an ex­clu­sive sup­plier of choco­late and other sweets to the court. In 1924, Venchi merged with six other en­ti­ties and in 1934, em­barked on a part­ner­ship with high-end choco­late maker Cuba, and hence­forth es­tab­lished a choco­late em­pire in Italy and be­came a lead­ing name in the premium choco­late mar­ket.

Ital­ian cui­sine is one of the key cuisines of the world, and sim­i­larly Ital­ian choco­late has its

own dis­tinct char­ac­ter. Venchi em­pha­sises the “soul of Italy”, us­ing lo­cal in­gre­di­ents such as but­ter and cream (not palm oil), and sell­ing lo­cally pro­duced hazel­nuts, pis­ta­chios and other nuts, and co­coa-but­ter and olive oil.

Venchi at­taches great im­por­tance to the ori­gin of its raw ma­te­ri­als: Al­monds and pis­ta­chios are sourced from Si­cily, while its clean­tast­ing and pure olive oil comes from Lig­uria, the cen­tre of olive oil in Italy. Its hazel­nuts are pro­duced in Pied­mont and have re­ceived the Indi­cazione Geografica Protetta (IGP) ge­o­graphic cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. Pied­mont also has ex­cel­lent con­di­tions for the grow­ing of wine grapes with good soil struc­ture and fer­tile soil.

Venchi’s stan­dards for co­coa beans, the main in­gre­di­ent in its choco­late, are even more strin­gent: The rarer Cri­ollo and the more com­mon­place Fo­ras­tero beans come from plan­ta­tions in Peru and Ecuador, with some Fo­ras­tero beans also sourced from the Ivory Coast and Ghana. Venchi also pur­chases sus­tain­ably grown co­coa beans from fam­i­lies of the 850-house­hold Kichwa tribe in Ecuador. This re­la­tion­ship en­cour­ages these fam­i­lies to en­gage in tra­di­tional forms of agri­cul­ture and also en­sure that their choco­late prod­ucts can sit easy on the con­science of their cus­tomers.

As for my ex­pe­ri­ence of Venchi, the mild bit­ter­ness of the choco­late and the aroma of the hazel­nut came to­gether beau­ti­fully in my mouth. That was quite a first im­pres­sion and the name Venchi has stuck in my head ever since.


往威尼斯西行430公里,到达阿尔卑斯山脉丘陵地带的皮埃蒙特(Pied­mont)便是Venchi以及意大利巧克力的发源地。说起巧克力,许多人的印象似乎只停在法国和瑞士,殊不知,意大利也有历史悠久与口味独特的巧克力传统。根据记载,可可是在16世纪由西班牙菲利普二世国王的女儿凯特琳带入皮埃蒙特首府都灵的嫁妆。当时,可可在宫廷是一道皇室专享的提神饮料。1678年意大利厨师Gio­vanni An­to­nio Ari获朝廷准许在当地开设首家可可热饮店,随后可可热饮店如雨后春笋般崛起,每日制造多达350公斤的巧克力,使 都灵正式成为意大利首个巧克力之都。在拿破仑时代,南美洲可可豆进口困难,当地巧克力师傅发挥巧思,将当地盛产的高级榛果与可可融合,创造出Gian­du­jotto(也即是普罗大众都晓得的Nutel­la的鼻祖),成为意大利的甜食传奇。

1878年,甜点学徒Sil­viano Venchi自立门户,在皮埃蒙特开设第一家小巧克力店,在1905年成为聘请500多人的上市公司。Sil­viano本身也是甜点天才,将切碎的榛果混合焦糖和巧克力,创造出Nougatine巧克力糖,供应给各大咖啡馆,成为当时大卖的甜点,同时还深得皇室青睐,获颁萨伏依皇家印章,专门供应巧克力甜点给皇室家族享用。Venchi在1924年与巧克力工坊Uni­ca合体,又在1934年与另一巧克力工坊Cuba合并,从此建立了在意大利的巧克力王国,让Venchi成为意大利精品巧克力的领军品牌。

意大利佳肴是世界大菜系,其巧克力也自成一格,不落俗套。和法国与瑞士不同的是, Venchi巧克力强调“意大利美食灵魂”,舍动物奶油与乳酪,也谢绝棕油,而主推当地盛产的榛果、开心果、果仁、可可脂与橄榄油。来到采集原材料,Venchi极重视食材的来源地——杏仁与开心果源自西西里岛;橄榄油源自意大利橄榄王国利古里亚(Lig­uria),味道清香,毫无杂质;而榛果则产自皮埃蒙特,并获得IGP“受保护地域标识”的认证,当地也盛产酿酒葡萄,土地结构良好,土壤肥沃,品质全球数一数二。Venchi巧克力的主要材料,可可豆更为严选:较稀有的Cri­ol­lo与普通的Fo­ras­tero品种来自秘鲁和厄瓜多尔可可园,另一些Fo­ras­tero品种则来自非洲的象牙海岸及加纳。Venchi也特地跟居住厄瓜多尔的850户基瓦族(kichwa)家庭,以公平交易方式采购他们的可持续性香浓可可豆,鼓励原住民坚持传统种植法,也确保送到食客舌尖的都是一口一口绿色良知。

意式幽默——这款“Brutto & Buono”(意思是又粗糙又美味)巧克力,将切碎的榛果和巧克力融在一起,卖相不佳,但滋味上乘。


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