Époisses de Bourgogne

Pronunciation: [ay-PWAHSS deuh boor-GO-nyuh]

A washed rind cow's-milk cheese first created in the early 1500s by Cistercian monks in the Burgundian village of Époisses. It was a favorite of Napoleon and declared "King of Cheeses" by famous French gastronomic writer Brillant-Savarin in 1825. Its popularity dwindled in the 1900s, a victim of the two World Wars, and Époisses effectively disappeared until revived in the mid 1950s by Robert and Simone Berthaut. Since then it's gained a huge following of those who enjoy a strong-smelling, pungently flavored cheese. As it's ripening, Époisses is regularly brushed with a mixture of water and marc. This process helps evenly spread desirable bacteria over the cheese's surface, producing a bright orange rind, a creamy texture and a savory, earthy flavor. The 7-ounce wheels are packaged in protective wooden boxes. The Berthauts also produce Aisy Cendré, a shorter-aged "young Époisses," and their Affidelice, which is washed with chablis instead of marc. See also cheese.

From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

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