Epoisses de Bourgogne

What is Epoisses de Bourgogne

The History of Époisses de Bourgogne

Origins and Development

Époisses de Bourgogne, a distinctive French cheese, originated in the village of Époisses in the Burgundy region during the 16th century. It is believed that the monks of the Cîteaux Abbey first developed the cheese, utilizing their knowledge in dairy farming and cheesemaking to produce a unique, washed-rind cheese. Over the centuries, Époisses became a regional staple, celebrated for its creamy texture and strong aroma.

The traditional production of Époisses involved raw cow’s milk, which was coagulated with rennet before being cut, stirred, and heated. The curds were then placed in molds and allowed to drain. The young cheeses were regularly washed in marc de Bourgogne, a local pomace brandy, during their aging process. This practice not only helped in developing the cheese’s characteristic rind but also its pungent smell and complex flavor profile.

By the 19th century, Époisses was highly regarded, even earning the praise of gastronome Brillat-Savarin, who famously described it as “the king of all cheeses.” However, its production waned during the two World Wars and was nearly extinct by the mid-20th century. The revival of Époisses was led by Jean and Simone Berthaut in the 1950s. They standardized production techniques and reestablished Époisses as a gastronomic icon in France.

Characteristics and Age Profiles

Époisses de Bourgogne is easily recognizable by its soft, reddish-orange rind and creamy, slightly granular interior. As it ages, the cheese softens and develops a more pronounced flavor. The age profiles of Époisses can typically be categorized as follows:

  • Young Époisses (3-4 weeks): At this stage, the cheese is mild with a hint of sweetness in its taste. The rind starts to develop its characteristic color but is less pungent.
  • Mature Époisses (6 weeks): The cheese becomes creamier and begins to exhibit a stronger aroma. The flavor becomes richer and more complex, with a noticeable presence of fruit and earthy tones.
  • Very Aged Époisses (8-10 weeks): The cheese reaches a runny consistency with a very potent smell. The flavors are intense, with a perfect balance of salty, sweet, and spicy notes.

Each stage offers a different sensory experience and is suited to various culinary uses, from a simple cheese board to complex sauces.

Époisses in America

Introduction and Popularity

Époisses made its way to the United States primarily through gourmet food importers and specialty cheese shops. Its introduction to American palates was gradual, often centered in metropolitan areas with a strong culture of culinary diversity and European influences.

Regulatory Challenges

The original version of Époisses, made with raw milk and aged less than 60 days, faced import restrictions into the U.S. due to FDA regulations. This led to the creation of a pasteurized version specifically for the American market, which, while maintaining many of the traditional characteristics, has subtle differences in taste and texture that can be discerned by cheese connoisseurs.

Presence and Reception

Today, Époisses is available across the United States in various forms, including both the pasteurized and, occasionally, the original raw versions. It has found a niche among American cheese lovers who appreciate its bold flavor and creamy texture. Époisses is often featured in high-end restaurants and is popular on cheese plates for its distinctive flavor that pairs well with Burgundy wines and hearty ales.


Époisses de Bourgogne stands as a testament to the rich culinary heritage of France and the resilience of traditional cheesemaking practices. From its monastic origins to its near extinction and subsequent revival, Époisses has not only survived but thrived, gaining international fame. Its creamy, robust nature continues to win over cheese lovers around the world, making it a beloved feature in the global cheese landscape. Whether young or aged, Époisses offers a unique taste that captures the essence of its rich history.

Tasting Notes

Here’s a table format of tasting notes for Époisses de Bourgogne, structured to provide a clear sensory profile of this celebrated cheese:

AspectTasting Notes
Body and TextureSoft, creamy, and oozy with a sticky, smooth surface. Can become runny at room temperature.
Savouriness/UmamiHigh umami presence; meaty, broth-like qualities dominate the palate.
SaltinessModerately high; enhances the umami and complements the creaminess.
SweetnessMild; underlying notes of caramel and nuts, especially noticeable in younger cheeses.
Acidity/SournessLow to moderate; slight tanginess that brightens the rich flavors.
BitternessMinimal; mostly absent, but older cheeses might have a slight bitter finish.
Dairy FlavoursPronounced creamy, milky notes with hints of butter and a rich fattiness typical of high-fat cow’s milk.
Notable Details on Other FlavoursComplementary notes of almond, mushrooms, and a faint hint of fermented fruits.
Flavours Arising from AgingIncreased complexity with age; develops stronger notes of earth and spice, with a noticeable enhancement in its fermented and alcoholic undertones from the marc de Bourgogne wash.

These tasting notes provide a comprehensive sensory profile that helps in appreciating the distinct qualities of Époisses de Bourgogne. Whether enjoying it as part of a cheese platter or using it in culinary preparations, these details highlight what makes Époisses a unique and revered cheese in the culinary world.

How is it made

Époisses de Bourgogne is traditionally made and matured through a meticulous process that includes several key distinguishing features:

  • Raw Cow’s Milk: The cheese is traditionally made from raw cow’s milk sourced from local herds in the Burgundy region, contributing to its rich and complex flavor profile.
  • Coagulation and Curd Handling: The milk is coagulated with rennet, and the curds are cut, stirred, and heated gently. This handling affects the final texture of the cheese, making it softer and more spreadable.
  • Molding and Draining: The curds are placed into circular molds and allowed to drain naturally without being pressed, helping the cheese maintain its moisture and creamy texture.
  • Salting: After demolding, the cheeses are salted which aids in flavor development and acts as a preservative.
  • Washing: A key step in the maturation process, the cheeses are washed regularly in marc de Bourgogne, a local grape pomace brandy. This washing not only imparts a distinct aroma and flavor but also encourages the development of the characteristic orange-red rind.
  • Aging: Époisses is aged for at least four to six weeks. During this time, the cheese is turned by hand and washed several times a week. The aging process allows the development of its unique creamy texture and complex flavors.
  • Rind Development: The frequent washing and aging in humid conditions promote the growth of Brevibacterium linens, the bacteria responsible for the soft, sticky rind that is a hallmark of Époisses.
  • Flavor Intensification: As it ages, Époisses develops a stronger, more pungent aroma and a richer flavor profile, transitioning from mild and milky to strong and complex.

These traditional methods of making and maturing Époisses de Bourgogne give it a distinctive character that is celebrated by cheese enthusiasts around the world.

Different styles

Here’s a comparison table outlining the differences in look, texture, taste, and flavor across various age profiles of Époisses de Bourgogne:

Age ProfileLookTextureTasteFlavour
Young Époisses (3-4 weeks)Pale orange rind, less vibrantSoft but firm, retains shapeMild, slightly tangyMilky, with hints of almonds and fresh cream
Mature Époisses (6 weeks)Brighter orange-red rind, more pronouncedCreamier, begins to ooze at room temperatureRicher, noticeable umami and saltinessEnhanced umami with notes of mushrooms and earthy undertones
Very Aged Époisses (8-10 weeks)Dark orange, glossy rindRunny, almost liquid at room temperatureVery strong, salty and intense umami presenceDeep and complex, with layers of spices, meat, and fruits

This table helps illustrate how Époisses de Bourgogne evolves over time from a relatively mild cheese into one with intense, complex flavors and a very soft, runny texture. Each stage offers a unique sensory experience, making Époisses a versatile cheese that can appeal to a range of palates and preferences.

Compare with other cheeses

Here’s a comparative table featuring Époisses de Bourgogne alongside other notable washed-rind cheeses from various regions, highlighting their visual characteristics, flavors, and textural differences:

Époisses de BourgogneFrance (Burgundy)Bright orange-red rindSoft to runny, creamyStrong, salty, rich umami, with notes of spices and earth
LangresFrance (Champagne)Wrinkled pale orange rindCreamy, slightly firmer than ÉpoissesMilder than Époisses, tangy, with a subtle hint of sourness
TaleggioItaly (Lombardy)Pale pink to orange rindSofter, stickyFruity, mild, slightly tangy with a noticeable milky sweetness
LimburgerBelgium/GermanyOrange-brown, sticky rindSoft, spreadableStrong, pungent, with a noticeable bitterness
Chimay CheeseBelgiumOrange, slightly sticky rindSemi-soft to softNutty, sweet with a hint of bitterness similar to beer
OkaCanada (Quebec)Pale orange rindSemi-soft, elasticNutty, slightly sweet with a hint of sharpness
Red HawkUSA (California)Bright red-orange rindCreamy, denseStrong, pungent, with deep meaty and milky flavors

This table showcases a range of washed-rind cheeses that are either similar in name, style, or production method to Époisses de Bourgogne. Each cheese reflects its regional characteristics and cheesemaking traditions, offering distinct flavors and textures that can range from mild and milky to strong and pungent. These cheeses, while sharing the washed-rind process, vary significantly in taste, texture, and visual appearance, reflecting their diverse origins and specific production techniques.

What does it pair with

Here’s a table that outlines traditional pairings of Époisses de Bourgogne with various types of wine and other drinks, along with an explanation of why these pairings work well:

DrinkComparable StrengthBalance of TastesHarmony of FlavoursTextural CombinationProvenance and/or History of Combination
Burgundy Red (Pinot Noir)HighWine’s acidity cuts through the salt and fat; umami matchesEarthy tones in both cheese and wine complement each otherSmooth wine with creamy cheeseBoth products are from Burgundy, making this a regional pairing
ChardonnayModerate to HighWine’s crispness and fruitiness balance the cheese’s saltiness and umamiFruit notes in the wine pair well with the rich cheeseRich, buttery textures alignA common pairing in France due to the contrast and complementarity
Marc de BourgogneHighStrong spirit stands up to the intense umami and saltiness of the cheeseBoth have robust, powerful flavors that enhance each otherIntense alcohol with creamy, soft cheeseTraditional drink used in washing the rind of the cheese
SauternesModerateSweetness contrasts the salty, savory nature of the cheeseSweet wine complements the spicy, salty cheeseLush wine contrasts runny cheeseClassic sweet and savory pairing
Belgian Tripel AleModerate to HighBeer’s sweetness and bitterness balance the cheese’s saltiness and umamiComplex ale flavors blend well with the rich cheeseCreamy cheese with effervescent beerBoth have monastic origins, though from different traditions

This table provides a comprehensive look at how different beverages can complement the strong flavors and creamy texture of Époisses de Bourgogne. Each pairing is chosen based on how well the drink’s characteristics balance or enhance the qualities of the cheese, considering factors like strength, taste balance, flavor harmony, texture, and the historical or regional background of the pairing. These pairings are ideal for exploring the dynamic interaction between Époisses and various wines or beers.

More to explorer


Introduction to Valençay Cheese Valençay cheese, a distinctive French goat cheese, hails from the province of Berry, now part of the Centre-Val

Soft Young Pecorino

History of Soft Young Pecorino Origins and Development Pecorino is a term used to describe Italian cheeses made from sheep’s milk (the

Loire Menetou Salon Sauvignon Blanc

History of Menetou-Salon Sauvignon Blanc Wine Menetou-Salon is a lesser-known but highly respected appellation located in the Centre-Val de Loire region of