Now that I am living in France, I’ve come to learn this country isn’t just the world’s leading wine producer. France is also a cheese lover’s heaven. At outdoor markets and grocery stores, especially my favorite Grand Frais, the French cheese options are endless. Since cheese and wine go hand in hand, I feel it’s my responsibility to try as many of these French cheeses as humanly possible. In the name of science! Or perhaps gluttony…then report back to you, my dear readers. So next time you come to France, you know which cheeses to grab and which to skip. This will be happening every Friday until I run out of cheeses to try or until I can no longer button my pants. French cheese Friday is now a thing! First up—Époisses.
Époisses is a soft, washed rind cheese made in a small Burgundian village of the same name. The farmers of this zone have been producing Époisses cheese since the 17th century. In 1991, cheesemakers began Époisses production under a controlled designation of origin known as an Appellation D’Origine Protégée. This means cheesemakers are held to strict standards of production
This French cheese is made from cow’s milk and has a soft, wrinkled rind that’s tinted orange. Époisses is packaged in a traditional round box made from wooden reed and should be stored in this box in the refrigerator. While the exterior is orange, the interior is a creamy white.
Remove Époisses from the refrigerator thirty minutes before serving so the interior becomes soft and creamy. As the cheese comes to room temperature, it becomes runny and gooey enough to spoon onto a fresh baguette.
How Époisses Is Made
To make this delicious French cheese, milk is heated to 30°C and held at that temperature for sixteen hours. The curd is then cut into large pieces and placed in molds to drain. After two days, the cheese is salted and set on racks.
As the cheese ages, it’s rubbed with a mixture of brine and marc, a rough brandy like grappa. This mixture inhibits mold growth while allowing bacteria to grow. And these bacteria are what give the cheese its distinctive aromas and flavors. The wine is washed three times a week for four to six weeks. Then the cheese is packed in its signature round wooden box for sale.
What Does Époisses Taste Like?
Époisses has quickly become my favorite cheese. It has the most heavenly savory flavor, and the creamy texture is addicting. The flavor is a combination of tangy and nutty with hints of grass and hay. Yet be warned—Époisses is not for the faint of heart. This is one stinky cheese! Every time you open the refrigerator, you’ll be looking around to see who just took their shoes off or wondering…what died? But the flavor is so much milder than the smell. I’ve also found that if you store Époisses solely in its wooden box as opposed to plastic or tupperware, it tends to stink a lot less.
What grows together goes together definitely applies here. Époisses pairs beautifully with hearty red or white Burgundy. It paired especially well with this Premier Cru Pinot Noir from Beaune. However, I have found a few Chardonnays that were completely and negatively changed by this cheese. I will update this post as I discover the perfect appellations that match because Époisses is always on hand in our household.