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Epoisses de Bourgogne – the king of all cheeses

In its distinctive wooden box -Epoisses de Bourgogne, a wonderfully and pungently delicious cheese from France
In its distinctive wooden box -Epoisses de Bourgogne, a wonderfully and pungently delicious cheese from FranceRichard Frisbie

Traveling to France? While there be sure to taste the "king of all cheeses" - Epoisses!

Even fans of soft ripened cheese may not know of the legendary Epoisses de Bourgogne, named after the village where it is made and for the brandy used in its aging. Protected with its own Appellation d’origine since 1991, this rare cheese from the Cote-d’Or region of France has charmed epicures since the sixteenth century when Cistercian Monks first began production.

Epoisses is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk and aged for several months. During that process it is frequently bathed with marc de Bourgogne, a local brandy made by distilling the pomace that is leftover when making burgundy wine. This, combined with the yeast and other fermenting agents, creates its distinctive orange-red colored rind and incredible flavor.

After nearly being lost to culinary history during World War II, the Berthaut family of farmers gathered the few remaining people with a memory of how to make it and reintroduced Epoisses to the world. Today, descendants of that family still manufacture nearly all the cheese that can legally be called Epoisses.

Described as pungent or downright stinky depending upon how much favor the cheese holds with its describer, Epoisses is strong to the nose and delicate on the palate. It has a creamy buttery smoothness and sublime flavor that only increases as the cheese comes to room temperature. There are anecdotal accounts of Epoisses being the only cheese forbidden by French law from being on any public transport. It is a very strong smelling and exquisite tasting cheese, rumored to be the favorite of Napoleon.

Serving suggestions: serve with tart fruit and sweet wine such as apples and Sauterne, or a sweet stone fruit and white burgundy. Either way, serve a good rustic bread with it. Cost varies, approximately $22 for a ¼ kilo (8.8 oz) wheel sold in a traditional wooden box. To order