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Oct 27, 2013 10:08 AM

Berthaut Epoisses Perriere

This summer I was invited to a tasting of Burgundy vs. local Pinot Noir at a private home in Sonoma County. Expecting that there would be far too many wines on hand than could be consumed, I wanted to bring something else instead for the host. After a full day, I dashed into the Oliver's market in Santa Rosa to find an appropriate cheese to match up with wine theme. I was delighted to see Berthaut's large wheels of Epoisses stacked on the cheese counter. I've not had much luck with the small rounds of Berthaut in this country and have stopped purchasing them. They're often too salty, dried out or unevenly ripe. I prefer to buy a piece cut from the near kilo size wheels so that I can taste before purchasing. Also, the salt balance is better to my taste and the deeper paste seems creamier.

I'd asked the caterer to put the wheel on the buffet table. When I returned not too long afterwards to have a taste, here's what I found.

So, I think they liked it. Several of the guests who were familiar with Epoisses had not tried it in the large format before and said it seemed like an entirely different cheese. I have to agree. It tasted the same to me as the examples in France. What have others' experiences been with the two formats?

In 2012, we bought a whole wheel at Alain Hess in Beaune. The shop gets a delivery every Friday to stock up for the weekend. The linked photo shows the cheese the next day atop a mechanic's tool cart at the Citroen dealer, the Beaune headquarters for the French equivalent of AAA, where our car had been towed and we waited for a taxi to drive us back to Paris. The cheese made its way to a dinner party to the Parisian home of Burgundy natives. Being Berthaut partisans, they were happy with our choice and told us that this is the way that Epoisses was meant to be. My traveling companion and I, OTOH, favor raw milk Epoisses from Gaugry, but could agree with their comments on the refinement of Berthaut's aroma and the silkier texture.

In 2006, I'd met up with some friends in Beaune. Before leaving town, we shopped at the Saturday market and purchased a whole Epoisses Perriere. The cheesemonger cautioned that it was very ripe and we'd need to eat it within a day. The next morning we left Beaune to make our way over the Alpine passes to their home in Geneva. After the journey over the winding roads, the squishy mass had compressed on one side of the container. Yet, even at this stage of fluidity, the cheese did not exhibit an overripe defects. I recall the three of us polishing off most of it with great gusto that night.

Specifications for Berthaut Epoisses Perriere

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  1. I like the big wheel version. I find there is variability in both the big wheel and normal sized versions. They can range from more firm and mild to liquid and strong. When I buy Epoisses at the Berkeley cheeseboard and they have the different versions I sample them both and get the one I like best. Sometimes the big one is better and sometimes the normal sized one is better. Now that you mention it I would say that the large sized version is probably better more often. I like salty cheese but I agree with you that sometimes the normal sized ones are too salty. The big sized one tends to be less salty and more unctuous. I have a slice in my fridge now that I got yesterday.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Ridge

      What I called "unevenly ripe" perhaps could have been better stated by just saying that the small rounds have been damaged by poor storage or handling somewhere in the process. Of course there will be variability as you describe along the spectrum of less ripe to ripe and descending to overripe. For the dear price that we have to pay for Epoisses in this country, I'm not willing to take any more chances on buying whole small rounds any more having been burned too often by poor condition. If you have the chance to buy half of a small round, then definitely taste beforehand.

      Maybe the larger size (close to a kilo per wheel) is more impervious to less than ideal handling. The big wheel is not only wider in diameter but also taller in height. Maybe the change in surface:volume ratio lends itself to a longer and more even ripening arc and the ideal unctuous texture. It certainly plays a part in not being as salty.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Good point, the 'coupe' of Berthault has a longer sweet spot than the small one, thus stays riper longer.
        l once had to get rid of 150 of the coupes at a cheese store in Canada at a very good price, not one was too old. Moved them all in 9 hours.
        Standard rule for the little ones, if top is dry, dark, or shrunken from wooden box, skip it.

        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

          Wanted to mention that when your reference to the "coupe" in the previous thread about Epoisses is what motivated me to post about Berthaut Epoisses Perriere, that being the trade name for its large format (900 gram) cheese. That was a new cheese vocabulary word for me. What I've gleaned from translation sites is that "à la coupe" means bulk or loose, referring to cheese that is not sold pre-packaged.