Chocolaterie Lencieux Gigondas Provence - display ©2018 Nathalie Delmotte | bonbons de Chocolats

An Artisan among Famous Vineyards

Have you heard of the south of France village of Gigondas?

Nestled at the foothill of the Dentelles de Montmirail (a small chain of mountains with striking jagged limestone peaks), Gigondas is famed worldwide for its full bodied red wines.

That’s not all though.

On a small country road, away from the main track, lives someone special.

You could call her a magician.

She selects local essences such as thyme, fennel, ‘Marc de Gigondas’ and other aromas, including classic ones, to flavour the ganache, a blend of cream and chocolate, that fills the individual chocolate shells she makes.

Yes, Caroline Chochois is the artisan chocolatier at ‘Chocolaterie Lencieux’.

I passed by the sign on several occasions but that day decided to find out more.

I turned left and followed the signs up the little winding road that leads to the rocky outcrop.

After a few minutes drive, I parked the car in front of a large, old tile and brickyard building. I noticed the shop on one end and pushed open the door.

First Impression

The wonderful heady scent of chocolate welcomed me.

Behind the counter, a smiling woman said “bonjour”. She gave me some time to look around and then presented me with a tray to sample some of the chocolates.

I chose a pretty one shaped like two inverted hearts. It tasted delicious of orange and chocolate, in turn crunchy and then smooth and creamy.

Encouraged by my delighted look, she revealed it was an orange ganache.

I asked her what brand of chocolate she uses, and by the same occasion managed to curb my temptation to try another one.

She replied : “I’m not the chocolatier; my daughter is. I’m helping her today”.

Behind her, I could see a bright open space with a large stainless steel table, a trolley with slots for trays, piles of chocolate moulds on shelves and on the right hand side, a few tempering machines that allows the artisan to maintain chocolate at a constant temperature.

The daughter, Caroline Chochois stood in the middle, immersed in her work, looking at home in her laboratory.

Hearing our conversation, she said: “I use chocolate from Belcolade. It’s a quality Belgian product”.

She explained that she uses basic raw materials and simple natural ingredients so she knows what goes into her chocolates.

After taking it all in, I smiled thinking about the author Joanne Harris’s quote:

“I sell dreams, small comforts, sweet harmless temptations to bring down a multitude of saints crashing among the hazels and nougatines”

― Joanne Harris, Chocolat

I don’t know about you but I always find it moving to see an artist at work in their studio, to notice their tools, handheld daily and their labour of love, the finished creations available for all to enjoy.

It makes you realise they apply skills, time and care to produce something special, something worthwhile. And, if this something fulfils every chocoholic’s dreams, all the better for it.

After buying a couple of selection boxes called ballotins as presents and filling a sachet to taste a few more chocolates, I asked the two women which one was their favourite.

Caroline replied her current one was a dark chocolate with a fennel ganache while her Mum preferred a milk chocolate flavoured with mandarin.

Two more reasons to go back for more …
Chocolaterie Lencieux display avec ballotins ©2018 Nathalie Delmotte

More Chocolate Tasting

I headed towards the car, arms full and once in my seat, unable to resist, I picked a chocolate and eagerly took a small bite.

The smooth, hard, dark chocolate soon started melting on my tongue.

Then, revelation.

First the herbal, slightly tangy taste of thyme filled my mouth and then the sweet, smooth creamy centre rounded off the experience.

I was impressed.

The flavour was clean and just right.

Thyme has a strong aromatic flavour and it’s so easy to overdo it. I understood what the chocolatier meant about using natural products and a simple approach. She had managed to create a harmonious synergy between the distinct flavours.

You may think thyme and chocolate don’t work together, but they do! You’ll have to try it.

The second one featured ‘Marc de Gigondas’, the local grape seed eau-de-vie, a digestive.

Again, it was a pleasure discovering the subtle alcohol’s aromatics against the smoothness of the chocolate. The balance of flavours worked superbly too.

I can’t possibly tell you about all the other ones I tried that day but when you next visit Provence around Gigondas, make ‘Chocolaterie Lencieux’ a must stop by.

Before you set off though, check Caroline Chochois’s website to ensure she’s open.

Remember, she’s an artisan so flavours change whenever she sees fit.

So, is it The destination for the best chocolate in Provence?

I can’t say for sure. I have not tasted all that’s on offer yet, in her shop or from other chocolatiers operating around Haut Vaucluse and Drôme provençale.

It would be up there though. That’s for sure.

Have you ever tried chocolates lovingly crafted in Provence?

Tell me, which one was your favourite?