Impossible food-wine pairing: Epoisses?!?

(You ever eat Époisses after a huge meal? Run out a pound of the stuff, some big, bad supersomething red wine and plenty of bread as the candles on your table sputter, and everyone deconstructs what just happened, what was served and why and how it made everyone feel? Life gets strange and fast. Époisses is like a drug. It’s the tequila of cheese.)

So writes Sam Sifton, NYT restaurant critic, in a blog post about David Chang’s new restaurant, Ma Peche.

Epoisses, of course, is a deliciously stinky, gooey cheese from Burgundy with a rind washed in marc de Bourgogne, a local brandy. A little wooden box tries its best–mostly with futility, as I have noticed when transporting it on a crowded train–to trap the aromas that emit from these little 250g wheels. On the palate, the intense, earthy, barn-yardy ripeness can be lingering and dominating, almost too much to pair with wine. Which would you choose? Or is it…impossible?!?

Personally, the last thing I’d want with Epoisses is “some big, bad supersomething red wine.” In general, I find white wine and cheese produce successful, if underrated, pairings with cheese courses. Oh, and I’ve never had one of those apparent stoner moments with Epoisses that Sifton describes. Maybe his was a little too ripe?

Related Posts with Thumbnails

25 Responses to “Impossible food-wine pairing: Epoisses?!?”

  1. Bad bad (over or at least exceeedingly ripe, low acid) red, NO,….but a red with a nice acidic profile, emphatically yes. pinot Noir, Cru Beaujolais, Jura – extraordinary.

  2. It pairs surprisingly well with red Burgundy. Or perhaps not surprising, since they’re from the same area. Note that the Epoisses you get here is from pasteurized milk, and while it can be a pretty good cheese it’s not in the same class as the traditional raw milk Epoisses available in Burgundy.

  3. I agree with the white wine idea, how about a Sauvignon de Saint Bris? It is nearly as Burgundian as the cheese and probably equally offensive.

  4. […] Impossible food-wine pairing: Epoisses?!? | Dr Vino’s wine blog. Categories: Uncategorized Comments (0) Trackbacks (0) Leave a comment […]

  5. I’ve been to anumber of wine and cheese pairing/tastings run by Kent Torrey from the Cheese Shop in Carmel. Epoisses and pinot noir is always a wonderful pairing

  6. I once spent a couple of hours where I finished most of a round of Époisses accompanied by a couple of bottles of a simple, light Vosne-Romanée and a baguette. It was too much and my body did not thank me for it the next day, but in the moment it was sublime.

  7. While I agree that certain red Burgundies can work (and as Art said Cru Beaujo or a Jura red, i.e., Ploussard), in my experience it’s really white Burg that makes the most sublime match with Epoisses, Meursault in particular.

  8. This post should be titled “classic” not “impossible”. For a course on how to pair Epoisses, proceed directly to Ma Cuisine in Beaune and order nearly any five to ten year old white burgundy on their list*, drink half the bottle with a starter (ideally the pigeon if available) and then savor the second half with the bowl of deliciously runny Epoisses provided by the owners.

    My name is Damien Casten and I have tested and approve of this method and this message.

    *To the inevitable nitpickers who might say a village wine won’t stand up to a ripe Epoisses, please note that I said “on their list”. It’s a great one and if a wine is there at 5+ years old, it has the stuffing to stand up to the cheese and if it doesn’t, they’ll tell you.

  9. I recently attended an ‘Old World Cheese – New World Wine” pairing class with Nora Singley at Murrays. We used a Palliser Martinborough Pinot Noir with the Epoisses and (I was sceptical – past experiences had me wondering if it were an impossible pairing too) it worked beautifully. I guess acidity is key? > John Kelly – Most of a round! Respect.

  10. Agreed that the classic pairing would be Burgundy, and while I’d probably go white for the creaminess, some of the truffly/earthy aromas and flavors of the reds would work as well.

    I may just give it a try with Selle e Mosca’s Torbato. My palate has been enjoying the slightly smoky, vaguely earthy flavors with its creamy feel that gets lifted by a nice, bright finish. I think it has the flavors, weight and texture to be a good fit.

  11. for my french chz & wine classes, we always pair a red burg from cote de nuits w/ a runny, sweating epoisses; always oohs & aahs

  12. Just did several wheels of Epoisses in the Mosel with Mosel Trocken Riesling. Very very good.

  13. The white Burg comment above is dead on, although I would recommend Epoisses paired with Grand Cru Chablis with body like Les Clos or Valmur.

  14. The last time I was in Burgundy I visited probably ten producers from Beaujolais all the through to Chablis. Every single one of them served Epoisses, whether it be breakfast, lunch or dinner (imagine a European being served BBQ for every meal when visiting the USA) with little care for the pairing. I don’t know if it was the moment, but ever Burgundy pairing seemed to work. On a side note: one producer had a six month old baby that must of weighed a hundred pounds. Everyone was amazed by the size of this baby and as the mother explains they have no idea why the baby is so big, we look over and the father is spoonfeeding it Epoisses.

  15. I’ve approached Epoisses pairings the same way as Craig: red Burgundy, wines of the region. And I agree with David on the Meursault. I’ve loved Pommard and Meursault with Epoisses.
    On my first trip to Burgundy in 1997, I brought a round of Epoisses back in my suitcase. The Customs agent’s dog went crazy as soon as the bag hit the carousel!
    Seeing your post brought back some good memories.
    The Journey of Jordan: a wine and food video blog

  16. I have never had any issues serving Epoisses with wine, and find it quite flexible as a wine pairing cheese. Of course, most of the wines in my own cellar tend to be higher acid wines- red and white Burgundy, rieslings, Beaujolais, Piemonte wines, Champagne, Loire reds and whites, so perhaps acidity is a key constituent for a seamless pairing of the cheese and a wine. But I have had it also work very well with old cabernets from California, aged red Bordeaux, classically-styled Rioja, old school Rhone wines and the like, so I do not believe that a higher acid profile is necessary for a good pairing with Epoisses. What is conspicuously absent from my cellar though is high alcohol wines (+14%), and perhaps the higher alcohol content of certain wines could cause a bit more of a discordant relationship between the wine and the Epoisses? In any event, I do not think that Epoisses is really a particularly strong cheese in terms of flavors- or at least there are several more steps up the flavor ladder of “stinky cheese” to be found in France- and I find that much of its assertiveness is in its bouquet and its quite salty character when it is at peak ripeness. I find that a higher acidity wine tends to generally work best to cut through the saltiness of ripe Epoisses, so this is the direction I tend to go- but I do this routinely with most food and wine pairings as I find acidity a key fundament to wine’s flexibility at the table.

  17. Given many of Sifton’s completely off-base restaurant reviews in the NYTimes this is just another indication of his lack of taste and amateurish palate. Although there certainly are some red wine and cheese pairings that make sense, white is usually better and anything as pungent as Epoisses demands a powerful, preferably sweet white wine. With cheese, when in doubt, always go white.

  18. Speaking of Sifton’s amateurish nature, how do you “run out a pound” of Epoisses when it comes in a roughly 8 oz wheel in this country and most of the time in France as well? It isn’t sold by weight, Sam, it is sold by the piece, and a piece ain’t even close to a pound.

  19. There is an article/video on the Bordeaux Gold website with a Parisian affineur who mentions Sauternes as an option – yet to try that one myself…

  20. I think Epoisses is actually one of the best cheeses to pair with wine provided you know what you’re doing. I love it with the Francois Pinon sparkling Vouvray or with a barnyardy, funky Gigondas or Vacqueyras from the Southern Rhone.

  21. Agliote (Bouzeron) — when you’re done, flip the rind-lid back over the gooey center, wrap the round in soft cloth and drizzle a bit of the Agliote around it to keep the rind from drying out. And stick it back in its wooden container, just to be a good lad. (Many a chef, som and cheesemonger have identified this as the traditional method … and pairing, FWIW.)

  22. While we’re picking on this article, the Epoisses in the photo looks too cold. It should be way more runny than that. My favorite cheese, and I do find it relatively difficult to pair. Not all pinot noirs will work with it.

  23. […] Impossible food-wine pairing: Epoisses?!? | Dr Vino’s wine blog […]

  24. For what it’s worth, I just went to a wine and cheese pairing given by a U.S. representative of the French Cheese Club. She suggested Chablis or Sauternes with Epoisses.

  25. […] made from the skins and seeds left after pressing grapes. There’s an interesting discussion here about selecting an appropriate wine match. This is definitely a case of “read the […]


Wine Maps

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

See my op-eds in the NYT
"Drink Outside the Box"
"Red, White, and Green"


Monthly Archives


Blog posts via email



Wine industry jobs


One of the “fresh voices taking wine journalism in new and important directions.” -World of Fine Wine

“His reporting over the past six months has had seismic consequences, which is a hell of an accomplishment for a blog.”

"News of such activities, reported last month on a wine blog called Dr. Vino, have captivated wine enthusiasts and triggered a fierce online debate…" The Wall Street Journal

"...well-written, well-researched, calm and, dare we use the word, sober." -Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher, WSJ

jbf07James Beard Foundation awards

Saveur, best drinks blog, finalist 2012.

Winner, Best Wine Blog

One of the "seven best wine blogs." Food & Wine,

One of the three best wine blogs, Fast Company

See more media...


Wine books on Amazon: