5 Best European Experiences for Food & Wine Lovers

When it comes to food and wine, Europeans know how to do it right. With dinners that last late into the night and wine at seemingly every meal, eating and drinking in countries like Italy, France and Spain is a delight.

To unlock unforgettable experiences, do more than simply sample Europe’s spectacular cuisine. Learn from experts as you whip up a plate of pasta from scratch, and delve into the history of regional varietals as local historians teach you the fine art of tasting wine. These five educational European food and wine tours offer the chance to discover how the continent’s long history has shaped the iconic food and wines we’ve come to know and love today.

1. Uncovering Tuscany’s Culinary History

If you did nothing else but eat in Italy, it would surely be worth it! And if you did that in Tuscany—a region of Italy boasting hearty fare and coveted wines, like the classic Chianti and bold Brunello—one could hardly fault you.

Take your Tuscan experience deeper as you learn to prepare local fare from Italian nonnas, or grandmothers. This is an experience like no other—you’ll witness first-hand the skill passed down from generation to generation by making a delicious ragu, preparing homemade pasta, and pairing each with just the right olive oil and wine to enhance the flavor.

On a Tuscany food adventure, you’ll study alongside Italy’s best chefs at the International Academy of Italian Cuisine in Lucca, where experts guide you in selecting your own fresh produce and meats at the local market. You’ll chat up producers of locally made products, learn about biodynamic wine and oil production, and hone your own cooking skills — all while touring a rolling Tuscan landscape studded with 17th-century historical landmarks.

Road Scholar Recommends: Cooking in Tuscany

2. Riverboat Voyage Through German Wine Country

With charming villages, Art Nouveau architectural jewels and a wide swath of lush wine country, look no further than a riverboat to explore all German wine country offers. Exploring the region via a European river cruise means days dedicated to exploring fairytale cities along the river and relaxed evenings comfortably en route to your next destination, as you dine on three-course meals and enjoy lectures from expert instructors and lively local performers.

When cruising the Mosel River Valley, your private barge takes you through the Old World traditions of Western Germany with daily, expert-led excursions to fortresses, castles and prestigious vineyards. On board, evening lectures with local historians mean you can conveniently dive into the history and flavors of Germany’s most fascinating wine regions without repeatedly unpacking your bags.

Road Scholar Recommends: Mosel River Valley: Vineyards, Castles & Culture by Barge

3. Retracing the Ancient Wine Trade Through Southern France

As if the glorious castles dotting the French countryside aren’t enough, this ancient country also offers true wine lovers Bordeaux — a region growing some of the best wine grapes in the world. Seeing France — our Destination of the Year for 2019 — through the eyes of the ancient wine trade is a memorable experience. Follow a local expert through the winding, cobbled streets of rural villages and sample local treats such as "canelets," the signature pastry of Bordeaux, and decadent truffles from the Perigord region.

Taste your way through the glories of Southern France by land and boat. You’ll take a gabarre boat down the Dordogne River, enjoy three-course meals en route to prehistoric caves, and meet master wine producers while sampling creations from their vineyards. Lecturers throughout this gastronomic experience highlight the most significant architecture and history of the region, as well as the area’s strong impact of the historical wine trade.

Road Scholar Recommends: A Feast for the Senses: Wine, Food and History in Bordeaux

4. Explore Castles and Vineyards in France’s Loire Valley

Unpack your bags on a study cruise through the Loire Valley of France, known for its fairytale Renaissance castles and sumptuous wines. Imagine the royalty who once called home to the glorious châteaux of Chenonceau, Chambord and Chartres, learn about each one’s unique history, and discover the delightful nuances of this region’s wine heritage from local experts all along the way.

Make your way through the Muscadet Wine Route, visiting cellars and vineyards, and sampling fruity white wine. Then explore multiple UNESCO World Heritage Sites with ample time to savor the local delicacies at each town’s bakeries, restaurants and markets. In the Loire Valley, the flavors of the traditional French cuisine pair perfectly with the broad range of regional wines you’ll sip each day.

Conclude your experience in one of the most beautiful and famous cities in the world, Paris, to discover Sainte Chapelle and Saint Denis Basilica. And don’t worry, there’s an equal mix of wine tasting, educational lectures and exploration to help you burn off those calories!

Road Scholar Recommends: The Loire: Châteaux, Vineyards and Royal History

5. Sipping Port Wine in Portugal

If you haven’t yet visited Portugal, this charming country seems single-purposely built as a destination for food lovers. Home to what many say is the prettiest river in Europe, the Douro, as well as endless sunshine and mild temperatures, Portugal is a delight. In addition to its beauty, it also offers unique wines and excellent dishes.

Take a wine study tour across Portugal on a small ship and wind down the Douro, learning from historians and local experts about the country’s long history, ancient architecture, and unparalleled cuisine along the way. There’s even an opportunity to go behind the scenes at a vineyard to see firsthand the process of wine production.

Road Scholar Recommends: Belo Portugal: Wine, History and Landscapes Along the Douro River

After one of these amazing European food and wine experiences, you’ll return home inspired, educated and likely hungry for that authentic cuisine. Thank goodness those cooking classes taught you how to make those dishes at home!

Which country’s cuisine makes your stomach growl? Let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook or Instagram!

 

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About the Author
JoAnn Bell, Senior Vice President of Program Development, develops and manages more than 5,500 learning adventures in 150 countries and 50 states. JoAnn's extensive travel industry experience informs her expert insight on everything from where to find the world's most charming streets to must-see hidden gems across the globe.

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