Cheese cheatsheet: 5 fast facts about Époisses

Époisses de Bourgogne, more commonly known as Époisses, is a celebrated French cheese originating from the small village of Époisses in the Burgundy region of France. Renowned for its robust flavor and pungent aroma, this cheese is a must-try for any serious cheese aficionado.

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Origin and Designation: Époisses de Bourgogne, or simply Époisses, is a traditional French cheese that originates from the village of Époisses in the Burgundy region of eastern France. It has been granted AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) status, meaning it’s protected under French law and must adhere to specific standards regarding its production and sourcing of ingredients. Only cheese produced in a designated geographic area, using approved methods, can legally be called Époisses.

How It’s Made: Époisses is made from cow’s milk, primarily sourced from the local breeds of cattle in the Burgundy region. The process of making Époisses is meticulous. After curdling and draining the milk, the young cheese is washed in a solution of brine and a local spirit, Marc de Bourgogne. This is followed by several weeks of aging, during which the cheese is regularly washed in the Marc solution, contributing to the distinct flavor and rind.

Flavor and Texture: Époisses is renowned for its bold and complex flavor. It has a creamy, soft interior and a washed rind that’s orange-red in color. Its taste is robust, with a salty tang and underlying notes of beef and caramel. Despite its intense flavor, Époisses is also quite balanced and finishes with a smooth, lingering aftertaste. The texture is melt-in-your-mouth creamy, contrasting beautifully with the slightly tougher rind.

Pungent Aroma: One of the most notorious aspects of Époisses is its strong aroma. Often described as ‘pungent’ or ‘barnyardy’, its scent is unmistakably robust and earthy. This distinctive smell is due to the specific bacteria present during the fermentation process. Despite the strong smell, cheese connoisseurs appreciate Époisses for its complex flavor and creamy texture.

Serving Suggestions: Époisses is traditionally sold in a round wooden box and is best served at room temperature to fully appreciate its creamy texture. It pairs well with hearty red wines from its home region, like a Burgundy Pinot Noir, or with a complementary sweet white wine like Sauternes. The cheese can be spread on crusty bread or paired with fruits and nuts on a cheese board. Do note that due to its strong aroma, Époisses may not be suited for closed spaces or pre-dinner appetizers where it might overpower other flavors.

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