When the new Epoisses arrived last week they looked lovely, just a little young â€“ the way we like to receive them. That way we can coddle them and nurture them until they reach their glorious peaks of optimal ripeness; that is: they are Ã point.
Without that extra care they can slip right over to a point, and not Ã point, where they undergo a sort of secondary fermentation and they become bitter. That runny texture they acquire may be desirable to some, but to get the best flavor from an Epoisses the cheese should still have just a little â€œheartâ€ in its center. Once they become liquid they tend to fade rapidly.
This is a challenge to the affineur, to deliver this so-called â€œKing of Cheeseâ€ at that small window of optimal ripeness, a challenge that we welcome. To encourage the cheeses along when they arrive young we give our Epoisses a little shower with a solution of marc. This helps to bring out a little extra flavor from the cheeses and it helps to ripen them to that desirable soft, not runny, texture. The shower encourages good surface bacteria to express more umami in the flavor profile.
That umami gives Epoisses a leg-up in synergies with many wine types; in other words: the cheese tastes delicious on its own. The salt is present (which always helps to bring out the fruit in a wine) but it is not in excess. The cheese has â€œbalance.â€
Tasting these Ã point Epoisses with four Burgundy wines this past weekend, two whites and two reds, we appreciated its successful matching with all of the wines. The two whites certainly won out but the reds were okay themselves. A 2002 Vocoret MontÃ©e Chablis made a delightful partner for the cheese, the 2004 Michel Niellon Champ Gain Chassagne Montrachet was even better. Again, the reds: the 2005 Jean Marc Morey Le Comme Dessus Santenay and the 2001 Domaine Vougeraie Clos de Vougeot; these two were satisfactory.
The Clos de Vougeot was certainly delicious on its own; it made some of us think that perhaps there are some wines that donâ€™t need food.
Again, the hands-down favorite wine for the perfectly ripened Epoisses was the Chassagne Montrachet. Exquisite!