Époisses de Bourgogne is a cheese made in the village Époisses found in the commune of Côte-d'Or, a département of France. It is located around halfway between Dijon and Auxerre.
Commonly referred to as Époisses, it is a pungent unpasteurized cows-milk cheese. A washed-rind cheese (washed in marc de Bourgogne, the local pomace brandy), it is circular at around either 10cm or 18cm in diameter, with a distinctive soft red-orange colour. It is sold in a circular wooden box, and is best served with a good red Burgundy wine, or even Sauternes.
Napoleon was a particular fan of the cheese, and the famous epicure Brillat-Savarin himself classed it as the "king of all cheeses".
Its odor is so strong that reportedly it has been banned from French public transport.
At the start of the sixteenth century, the village was home to a Cistercian community at L'Abbaye de Citeaux that, according to oral legend, began production of the cheese. Two hundred years later, when the community left, they left local farmers the recipe which developed over the next century. Although popular at the start of the 20th century, with over 300 farms manufacturing the cheese, production had all but died out by the end of the Second World War.
In 1956, M. Berthaut revived the tradition and is currently responsible for the manufacture of all fermier Époisses, although several artisanal fromageries now manufacture the cheese.
At the first stage of manufacture the whole milk is heated to around 30°C with the coagulation lasting for at least 16 hours. The fragile curds are drained in moulds, and the whey then allowed to run off. Around 48 hours later the cheese is removed, salted, and placed on racks to dry.
Once dry, they are moved to cellars to mature. Each is rinsed up to three times per week in a mixture of water and marc, and brushed by hand to spread the bacteria evenly over the surface. The yeast and fermenting agents produce the distinctive orange-red exterior, as it develops over a period of around six weeks.
In 1991 the cheese was awarded AOC status, which states that the manufacture must follow the following rules:
Under AOC regulation the cheese may only be made in listed communes in the Côte-d'Or, Haute-Marne, and Yonne departments.