Here's a list of the cheeses we bought and sampled. In parentheses are the names of the provinces the cheeses come from and the milk used to make them. All are French except the Peccorino — two of them, in fact — which C & J brought from Italy, and the Emmentaler from Switzerland. We still have quite a few pieces of different ones of these in the refrigerator.
- Époisses (Burgundy — cow's milk)
- Chaource (Champagne — cow's milk)
- Neufchâtel (Normandy — cow's milk)
- Saint-Nectaire (Auvergne — cow's milk)
- Peccorino (Tuscany — ewe's milk)
- Chèvre demi-sec (Berry — goat's milk)
- Chèvre frais (Berry — goat's milk)
- Pont-l'Evêque (Normandy — cow's milk)
- Emmentaler (Switzerland — cow's milk)
- Saint-Agur (Auvergne — ewe's milk)
Époisses is a village in Burgundy located about half-way between Avallon and Semur-en-Auxois and a couple of hours south of Paris. Its cheese is made from the milk of three Alpine breeds of cows — in French, La Brune, La Montbéliarde, and La Simmentale française. The cheese dates back at least to the 16th century.
According to one web site I found, 723 tons of Époisses are made annually by dairies (two of the biggest are Berthaut in Époisses itself and Germain in Chalancey) and another 4 tons are made by local farmers. The dairies use pasteurized milk, but the farmers' Époisses is made from raw milk.
During the 4-to-6-week ripening process, rounds of Époisses cheese are washed 2 or 3 times a week with white wine to which a little of the local brandy called Marc de Bourgogne has been added. As the cheese ages, the proportion of Marc in the liquid is increased.
The flavor of Époisses is strong but clean and not overpowering. The ones I've had have never developed that ammonia taste you sometimes get from the rind of very ripe Bries and Camemberts. The Époisses rind is orange-colored and perfectly edible. The cheese itself is soft and kind of sticky.
A round of Époisses about the size of a Camembert costs between 5 and 7 euros — compared to 2 or 3 euros for a Cambembert. But it's worth it, at least once in a while.