It’s difficult to talk about chocolate in the South of France without mentioning Puyricard. We first became acquainted with this artisan chocolatier at the annual chocolate festival in the village of Belgentier. Soon after, with Christmas season in full swing, I tried to fight the crowds at our Puyricard boutique in the center of our town – but to no avail. The in-laws got a food basket and I got a lesson in the value of extended-lunch breaks.
Puyricard chocolates are not cheap (€23 for 240 grams) but they are among some of the best I’ve ever had. And after a visit to the Puyricard factory (just outside Aix, in the town of the same name) I can understand why. All of the chocolates are handmade by a staff of about 20. Their staff swells to around 100 during the Christmas season, which, we learned during the tour, is when they make 40% of their annual profit. No wonder I never got my truffle box.
Kathy and I were giddy as school girls the afternoon of our factory tour. Surprisingly, we were the only non-French visitors and we both tried hard to 1) look chic in our white “bonnets” and protective overcoats 2) catch every tidbit of the chocolate-making process as the tour was all in French 3) nudge past the 8 or so French children who were about 2 seconds away from running off with as much chocolate as their tiny hands could carry. You know who you are kids.
The Puyricard factory tour begins with a 20-minute video explaining the history of the chocolatier and how they came to dominate the Provençal market. Outside of the south, our guide admitted, they are not very well known, even though they have four busy boutiques in Paris. The tour continued to the factory where our guide explained everything from the “raw” chocolate selection process, to the molding, hand-decorating (a gold-leafed gem known as the palette d’or is one of their best sellers), and the distribution network. We also learned how calissons and marshmallows, two other favorites from their product line, are made.
Unfortunately, no photos were allowed on the tour, so we’ll have to content ourselves with these shots I took from the Belgentier chocolate festival. I’d recommend taking this tour in the fall or spring season when the weather is cooler and there is more activity in the factory itself. Also, don’t be disappointed if you don’t get as many “samples” along the tour as you’d hoped for, as it ends with a heaping plate of chocolates, calissons, and marshmallows (pictured below) offered to the guests. Sweet.
To Learn More:
Puyricard web site.
Link for booking tours here.
List of Puyricard boutiques.
Puyricard on the map.