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Friday, October 12, 2012

The Ferrari of Chocolates

Today I’m in Torino (Turin) with the Wine-Knows Truffle tour.  While Torino is actually 150 miles from the city where Ferraris are made, this morning our group is visiting the Ferrari of chocolates, Guido Gobino.  Signor Gobino’s artisanal chocolates have become almost as famous as the sleek and sexy Ferrari and, like the car, they command top price.

To enter the “workshop,” you must be buzzed in by security.  At first glance the retail shop in which you enter could be a high-end gift shop in Manhattan or San Francisco.  Well coiffed, attractive female employees (straight out of a Fellini movie) snap you back to reality with their freshly starched white labcoats and formal welcome.  The smell of chocolate is intoxicating.  Everywhere I turn, I’m surrounded by drop-dead gorgeous packaging.  All senses are on overload. 

On the tour of the actual factory with Gobino, we learn that his family has been in the chocolate business for nearly 50 years,….but it is Guido who took the company on an entirely different trajectory.  In 1996 he opened his “artisanal workshop.”  It was Guido who began researching the field of chocolate and who discovered ancient recipes from Torino.  It was Guido who changed the focus to use of local products (such as Piedmont’s famous hazelnuts).  And, it was Guido who pushed for impeccable quality standards…with the same attention to quality details that are involved in making a Ferrari.

Signor Gobino is one of a huge number of chocolate-makers in town.  Torino has been associated with chocolate for over 400 years.  For a chocoholic, Torino is mecca.  In Torino’s central shopping district you’ll find Gucci, Prada, Ferragamo…mixed in between chocolate boutiques (one of which is Guido Gobino’s) and classy, old-world cafes with frescoed ceilings (that offer several types of chocolate drinks…and of course, chocolates.)   Gobino has become a legend among legends.   In the 2006 Winter Olympic Games, he was appointed the “Ambassador of Torino.”  The Academy of Chocolate in London, honored Gobino with the world’s best chocolate praline award.

While Gobino has chocolate boutiques popping up like mushrooms, today we’re fortunate to be at his actual “factory” (aka workshop).  I thought I was on sensory overload when we arrived in the retail shop attached to the factory, but now after touring the factory I’m almost delirious…a very good delirious.  Gobino ended the morning with a private chocolate tasting for the Wine-Knows group.  A Ferrari or a piece of Gobino’s praline chocolate made with extra virgin olive oil and topped with sea salt?  Hmmm…I’ll take the Gobino!   

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