Milk: Cow, pasteurized
Country: France, Burgundy
Accompaniment: Fruity reds, dry whites
Époisses de Bourgogne is a cheese made in the village Époisses, which is in the département of Côte-d'Or in France. It is located around halfway between Dijon and Auxerre. Commonly referred to as Époisses, it is a pungent cows-milk cheese. Smear-ripened (washed in marc de Bourgogne, the local pomace brandy), it is circular with a distinctive soft red-orange colour. Napoleon was a particular fan of the cheese, and the famous epicure Brillat-Savarin himself classed it as the "king of all cheeses".
At the start of the sixteenth century, the village was home to a Cistercian community at L'Abbaye de Citeaux that, according to oral legend, began production of the cheese. Two hundred years later, when the community left, they left local farmers the recipe, which developed over the next century. Although popular at the start of the 20th century, with over 300 farms manufacturing the cheese, production had all but died out by the end of the Second World War. This resulted from the loss of a significant portion of the male population, leaving the women to work the fields, which in turn led to the neglect of the local dairy businesses and cheese-making.
In 1956 Robert and Simone Berthaut, decided to re-launch the production of Époisses by mobilizing the traditional skills of those who still knew how to make the cheese. Berthaut Époisses increasingly gained favor among its devotees and became a spectacular success. The business is now carried on by their son, Jean Berthaut.
The cheese is definitely aromatic with barnyardy, earthy smells. Its texture is soft to the extent that it is best eaten with a spoon or spooned out onto a cracker or a piece of crusty bread. Flavors range from earthy and minerally complex to sweet and caramelly.