Cheese & Wine Tasting at Reypenaer, Amsterdam

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

As a person whose ‘kass’ expertise stretches as far as once enjoying an exotically-flavoured Babybel, I was both eager and apprehensive to take part in the cheese and wine tasting workshop at the Reypenaer store in Amsterdam.

We woke up relatively early and enjoyed pastries and coffee together in our Air B&B, before (literally) rushing off to catch the tram to head over to the Van Gogh Museum, before traveling into Dam Square, where the Reypenaer store is located, for our midday slot.

With a cheery welcome, we handed over our tickets and paperwork before being directed to the back of the shop, where we descended a steep staircase to the tasting room. Here, we were greeted by rows of wooden tables, neatly set out like a Victorian Classroom and adorned with wine and port glasses, various cheeses and a guillotine, that prompted me to make a mental note to not excessively piss off my sister within the next hour.

The four of us shuffled as far to the back of the room as we could get away with, very aware that being sensible for the duration of the workshop was a big ask, so removing ourselves firmly from the firing line - a plan we soon discovered to have a flaw when myself and Merrin noticed the table we were sat on wasn't set up, and so shamefully made our way back towards the front.

In front of us were six of the store's finest cheeses, and three empty glasses (one for red, one for white, and one for port) as well as several pieces of paper.

"We get to write about things!" I excitably exclaimed to my sister, who shot me a look that instigated my decision to slowly move the guillotine towards myself and away from her reach.

Our guide, the happiest looking man I believe I have ever seen, introduced himself to the group before briefly explaining what we could expect from the next hour. We proceeded to engage in a short-film, providing us with background knowledge on the cheeses and historic warehouse, situated directly next to the Old Rhine River in Woerden.

After a short question and answers session that was positively dominated by our friend Tamas, the first wines were poured and we cut the first cheese, pens in hand, ready to fill out the initial section of the forms provided. 

With sections: name, colour, smell, age, taste, consistency, our opinions and a final grade for each cheese, it was an opportunity to think about cheese in a way I had never before. Whilst I quite enjoy being challenged in this sort of way, Merrin was becoming noticeably stressed.

"It all just takes like fucking cheese. Smells like cheese. Looks like cheese. It's just cheese!"

And with that, we discovered the definite correlation between the increasing maturity of the cheeses, and the decreasing maturity of ourselves (let's blame mixture of wine and port for that) despite everything, creative juices were soon a-flow and we marked up our sheets with colours such as 'aging wedding dress' smells of 'old books' and textures of 'how your mouth feels when you need a good cup of tea.'

By the end of the workshop I had discovered that I quite like Gouda, Goat's Cheese is okay, and wine is the perfect antidote for pretty much anything that initially tastes like arse. We were handed our certificates that proved we were good at cheese-eating, and headed on our merry way!

Whether you're a huge cheese fan, or, like me, has continued to play it safe with the odd block of mature cheddar, I would totally recommend making a reservation for this workshop. There are so many options all with various inclusions and prices between €16,50 to €34,50 per person. From cheese tasting connoisseur which we took part in which also included a cocktail masterclass (that unfortunately, we couldn't attend), to the Cheese tasting Canaltour & ArenA Special which features a Blue Boat Company cruise along Amsterdam's canals - if you're in the city for a few days, or a few hours, it's certainly worth the money, and all allow you a discount on the cheeses for sale in the store - another fantastic bonus!

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