Dijon-off: Maille vs. Grey Poupon

It seems like the most widespread Dijon mustards these days are Grey Poupon and Maille.  In the past, of the two I’d definitely grab the Maille.  I’m not exactly sure why — I think I like the label better.  Or somehow it seemed more authentic to me…maybe because it says “Since 1747″…or maybe because they’ve never run a totally obnoxious ad campaign like Grey Poupon (and here’s the Wayne’s World version, of course).

I recently found myself with a jar of both Maille and Grey Poupon in the house, so Alex and I decided to do a taste test.  We even got our neighbor, Sal, involved.

First, I put a spoonful of each mustard on a plate side-by-side.  The Maille, on the left, has a slightly more appealing, fuller, yellow color.  The Grey Poupon, on the right, is a bit more pale and grey.  The texture of the Maille was also preferable to me; it’s a little more granular, while the Grey Poupon is comparatively gluey.  I can’t say I would have ever noticed the difference in the color or texture if I hadn’t tasted them side-by-side, though.

After plating, I handed over the mustards to Alex and Sal (they didn’t know which was which during our super rigorous blind experiment).  In the end, all three of us agreed the Grey Poupon had a stronger acidic/vinegar taste.  Alex and I also thought the taste of the mustard seed was sharper in the Grey Poupon, but Sal thought the strength of the vinegar in the Grey Poupon overpowered its mustard flavor.  Once trying it out on a few foods (as opposed to stand-alone), I agreed with Sal.

Because of its more intense and tangy taste, Alex liked the Grey Poupon the best (I should qualify that by writing Alex also likes vinegar much more than the average person).  For the same reasons that Alex liked the Grey Poupon, I prefered the mellower Maille.  Sal thought the acid of the Grey Poupon was a deal breaker, so even though he sought a strong mustard flavor, he also preferred the Maille.

All in all, if you have a proclivity toward vinegar (like Alex), go with the Grey Poupon.  Otherwise, go with the Maille.

But…the story’s not over!  After all the vinegar talk, we decided we had to know where it fell in the list of ingredients.

Maille:  Water, mustard seeds, vinegar, salt citric acid, sulphur dioxide (preservative).

Grey Poupon:  Water, vinegar, mustard seed, salt, white wine, fruit pectin, citric acid, tartaric acid, sulfur, spice.

It’s no wonder the Grey Poupon tastes more acidic (vinger is the 2nd ingredient, plus it has citric acid and tartaric acid) and slightly more gluey (fruit pectin).  But, the biggest revelation…where’s the wine in the Maille??  As far as I understand, the addition of grape juice (fermented or unfermented) is a defining characteristic of Dijon mustard.  It’s what makes a Dijon a Dijon.  The Maille doesn’t contain any wine!  So, I’m not sure how it’s calling itself Dijon, other than it’s probably not a regulated word in the US.

On the back of the label, I also learned that Maille is manufactured by Unilever in Canada and Grey Poupon is manufactured by Kraft in the US.   Apparently I was wrong about Maille being more authentic…they’re both pretty marginal.

Since I wasn’t totally bowled over by either the Maille or the Grey Poupon (and I love mustard…I actually do get bowled over by a mustard every now and again!), I think this means it’s time for me to find an alternative Dijon brand.  Any recommendations out there?

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8 thoughts on “Dijon-off: Maille vs. Grey Poupon

  1. They even sell Maille in Czech- now that is saying something! The best one I found here is Amora and Bornier- both French, but really good! I put it on everything.

    • Amora and Maille are the same company (owned by Unilever). Amora is the “everyday” mustard here in France, Maille is the “premium” brand found in all supermarkets.
      As for the taste test, the vinegar used in making Maille is certainly wine vinegar….so there is your grape addition.
      Grey Poupon is made only for the U.S. market…although I did see it the other day at the Galeries Lafayette (for the tourists!).

  2. I’m from Dijon, so I think I’m able to bring you some information.

    Both brands are only one company, since Maille acquired the other mustard maker in Dijon, Grey Poupon.
    Although G.P is no longer available in France, Maille keeps producing and distributing it in the US, with a different taste!

    Concerning where it’s made, despite what you’ve heard or read, I can assure you Dijon Amora-Maille mustard is still manufactured in Dijon, exactly in the suburb Chevigny-St Sauveur.

    The thing you learned about Canada certainly concerns the seeds:
    Burgundian farmers tended to abandon mustard plants in favor of colza in the past years, so Unilever decided to buy seeds from Canada.
    Fortunately, to clean this affront, mustard plants are starting to grow again in the local fields, and the canadian seeds now only represent about 60 percents, 50/50 expected within the next years.

    A mustard made with anything else than vinegar can’t be called Dijon.
    However you can surely find some “moutarde de Dijon au vin blanc”( with white wine), just like you can find some with truffles, chablis or whatever. See the difference?

    The funny thing is that when you go to the Maille boutique here in Dijon, you can just bring your own jar and get served directly from the pump, this one is made ” à l’ancienne” with white wine, the original but unofficial recipe.

    If you prefer softer white wine mustard, try the famous “moutarde de bourgogne” Fallot.
    Fallot is the last “home made” mustard, I mean that uses traditional processes:
    The seeds are grown and harvested in Burgundy, stone ground as in the past, to prevent heating and preserve the aromas.
    My favorite.

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