+33 (0)1 40 51 78 18

Tuesday 23 Oct 2018    The Cheese Guide

​​​​​​É​poisses - Our Fromage of the Month

Hold your nose for this Fromage of the Month folks, it's a stinky one!

Époisses de Bourgogne - commonly known simply as Époisses - is made in the village that lends it its name, in the Cote d'Or department of Eastern France. Now that the geography is out of the way, the second most important thing to know is this. Époisses stinks. But in the best possible way, of course! 

Don't be fooled by the cute round shape and dinky proportions of this cows-milk cheese, Époisses has been gleefully wrinkling noses for hundreds of years, ever since the Cistercian monks at L'Abbaye de Cîteaux first invented it at the beginning of the 16th century. 

Legend has it that when the community of monks left the area, the recipe was handed down to local farmers, who developed and perfected it over the following centuries. Their diligence obviously paid off, given that the famous gourmand Brillat-Savarin (a man so renowned for his epicurean excess that a cheese was named in his honour) declared Époisses to be "the king of all cheeses."

At the Vienna Congress of 1815, no fewer than 49 European cheeses were rated in a very cheese-loving competition. Époisses took second place after the mighty Brie, so Brillat-Savarin was not alone in his glowing opinion.

By 1900, there were over 300 farms producing Époisses, but as with many cheeses, production stalled during the course of the two World Wars. Époisses might have disappeared completely if a duo of industrious farmers, Robert and Simone Berthaut, hadn't dedicated themselves to reviving local know-how in 1956 - starting in their own basement. Today, their son Jean continues their noble endeavour and the Berthaut name is now synonymous with Époisses. In 1991, their work was rewarded when Époisses was designated Appellation Origine Controllée or AOC status, meaning there are tight conditions that control its production - if the rules are broken, the resulting cheese simply is not an Époisses. 

What kind of rules? Well. Époisses must be made from unpasteurized cow's milk for a start - no other white stuff will do. That milk can't just come from any old cow though, it must come from cows of the Brown Swiss, French Simmental or Montbéliarde persuasion. Of course, those cows have to be fed locally, too - 85% of their diet has to be sourced locally to the area of cheese production. Cheese curds can never be cut - no sir - they must be hand-broken and treated gently, like the precious cheesy innards they are. With so much care and control going into its creation, one can only imagine that this punchy little cheese would be quite the diva.

So how is it made? Why I'm glad you asked. Firstly, whole milk is heated to around 86°F / 30°C. Coagulation then sets in and lasts for around 16 hours - in fact you won't be surprised to hear that The Rules state it has to be at least 16 hours - after which the curds are drained while the whey runs off. The cheeses then rest in moulds for 48 hours and are then removed to drying racks after being salted. Then comes the washing. Around three times a week, the little cheeses are washed with a mixture of water and marc de Bourgogne, a local pomace brandy made from the skins leftover after wine-making. For the next six weeks, the cheeses start to develop their distinctive orange-red rind as they age. 


Époisses is a very soft cheese, which explains why it is usually found in little wooden boxes that help protect it. Now, you have been forewarned that Époisses is a pungent little cheese monster, but like all washed-rind cheeses its bark is far worse than its bite. The rind may have you wondering what you're getting yourself into, but once you get to that soft creamy interior you'll be rewarded with gooey mild loveliness, perfect for spreading on crackers or slathering on baguette. So as with so many things in life, when it comes to Époisses, you can't judge a book by its (stinking) cover. 

With Époisses being such a small-yet-mighty kind of cheese with a whole lot to say for itself, it pairs best with drinks that can hold their own. That's why it's often paired with strong dark ales, full-bodied Burgundys, bold Chardonnays or a decadent Châteauneuf-du-Pape - for those with the urge to splurge. 

Central Paris Location

Last Minute Course Places

15 Apr 2024

  • French Technical Classes / Mastering Classic French Sauces
  • Three hours of mastering the French Classic Mother Sauces - the grand canon of Cuisine Française. We’ll tackle emulsions, roux, reductions and more!

  • La Cuisine Paris, 80 Quai de l'Hôtel de Ville, 75004 Paris     Time: 14:30 - 17:30
  • Price: €119.00     Availability: 1 place left

15 Apr 2024

  • French Macarons / Les Macarons : Technical 3-hour
  • For the serious Macaron lover. Three hours of intensive Macaron time - we will tackle two types of classic macaron shells and four types of classic macaron fillings!

  • La Cuisine Paris, 80 Quai de l'Hôtel de Ville, 75004 Paris     Time: 9:30 - 12:30
  • Price: €119.00     Availability: 5+ places left

16 Apr 2024

  • French Baking Classes / Le Croissant & Breakfast Pastries
  • The 'Roi' of the Parisian breakfast table, Le Croissant ! Enjoy three hours of mastering this decadent, flaky, buttery French icon.

  • La Cuisine Paris, 80 Quai de l'Hôtel de Ville, 75004 Paris     Time: 10:00 - 13:00
  • Price: €119.00     Availability: 1 place left

16 Apr 2024

  • French Pastry / Les Choux, éclairs and more : Technical Choux Pastry
  • Intensive everything Choux Pastry, from Savory to Sweet! From the tempting and delicious éclairs and Paris-Brest to delicate savory Gougères!

  • La Cuisine Paris, 80 Quai de l'Hôtel de Ville, 75004 Paris     Time: 9:30 - 12:30
  • Price: €119.00     Availability: 5+ places left

17 Apr 2024

  • French Market Tour and Cooking Class / Marché Monge
  • Spend the morning like the locals, with a typical Parisian experience. A full immersion in to French culture with a French Market Tour followed by a hands-on French Cooking Class right in the heart of Paris !

  • Meet outside of Metro Station ‘Place Monge’ on metro line 7. Upon exiting the Metro, please take exit ‘Sortie 1 (Escalator) : Place Monge’     Time: 9:30 - 13:30
  • Price: €189.00     Availability: 3 places left

Sign up for Le Chou Chou, our Monthly Newsletter from Paris!

Get in touch

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to call on +33 (0)1 40 51 78 18 or email contact@lacuisineparis.com    Click here for further contact details