Produced since the late 1700's near the town of the same name in Burgundy, France, the most famous version of Epoisses is made by Berthaut, from raw cow's milk.
Napoleon is said to have been partial to this cheese and ate in in large quantities with Chambertin wine. It was also very popular at the beginning of the 20th century, but production declined and then ceased entirely during WWII. M. Berthaut, of the village of Epoisses, revived production in 1956 and although there are other excellent versions, Berthaut's Epoisses is probably the most widely known. Epoisses was granted AOC status in 1991.
Milk for production comes from the breeds of French Simmenthal, Montbeliarde and Brune cow.
The coagulation process is slow and gentle, and the curd for Epoisses is handled very gently, uncooked and allowed to drain naturally. This allows for the retention of as much moisture as possible in the finished cheeses.
Affinage takes place in specified areas and lasts for a minimum of four weeks. During this period, cheeses are washed repeatedly in a brine solution, then washed with wine or marc (brandy). This encourages the growth of the Bacterium Linens mold that gives the cheeses their deep, rust-colored rind, sticky exterior and astoundingly whiffy aroma!
Like so many washed rind cheeses, their pungent aroma is much stronger than the interior flavor of the cheese.
When ripe, the texture of Epoisses is meltingly soft and unctuous. Flavors are complex and meaty, with successive waves of sweet, salt, butter, metallic and clean milk flowing over the palate.
Pairs well with a Pouilly Fuisse or Sauternes.