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 varieties as local historians teach you the fine art of tasting wine. These five educational food and wine tours in Europe 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.
As one of the best European cities for food and wine, you can 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 Germany 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 in France 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. There’s no better way to get a deeper understanding of wine than through food and wine tasting in France.
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!
European Wine Tour FAQs
What are some tips for wine tasting?
Whether it’s your first food and wine tour in Europe or your tenth, there are several tips to keep in mind to get the full experience. Wine tasting is like an art, and to make the most of your wine tasting adventure, follow these tips:
- Dress for comfort: European wine tours can be an all-day adventure, which means you should dress for comfort. Wear comfortable shoes you can wear while touring the winery, as well as dark-colored clothes to hide any potential spills.
- Avoid wearing fragrances: Smell plays a significant role in wine tasting, and wearing perfume or cologne can mix with the aromas of the wine you’re tasting, taking away from the experience.
- Eat: When on a European wine tour, it’s important to eat. Wine tasting on an empty stomach can make it much easier to get intoxicated, which can make it hard to enjoy the rest of your day. When visiting the best European cities for food and wine on our list above, enjoying a glass of wine with a perfectly paired meal shouldn’t be a problem.
- Ask questions: The best European wine tours will feature professional sommeliers who are true experts at their craft. As you taste various wines, make sure to talk to the winemakers, wine owners, and sommeliers. Not only will you learn more about the wine itself, but the history and processes these wineries use to create their wine.
What are some terms I should know before my European wine tour?
When enjoying the best food and wine tours in Europe, you’re most likely going to hear a lot of terms you may not be familiar with. To help you better understand the art of wine, add these definitions to your vocabulary:
- Nose: As stated, smell plays a crucial role in wine tasting. Nose, or the bouquet, refers to the aromas the wine gives off, just as grape-derived noses that come from fruit, herbs, and florals.
- Body: The body of wine refers to how heavy the wine feels in your mouth. For example, some wines may feel more watery, while others may seem heavier, like a cream. Examples of a full-bodied wine would be a Cabernet Sauvignon, while a light or medium-bodied wine would be a Pinot Noir.
- Tannins: When drinking red wine, tannins refer to how dry your mouth feels afterward, where a wine high in tannins may taste bitter, while a wine low in tannins may feel smoother.
These are just some of the many terms you might hear on a wine tour in Europe. Other common terms include jammy, zesty, acidity, notes, and earthy.
What foods pair well with wine?
As you visit the best European cities for food and wine, you may wonder what to eat when wine tasting. Here are some common combinations:
- Cabernet Sauvignon with steaks
- Rosé with cheeses
- Burgundy with earthy vegetables
- Chardonnay with pork or chicken
- Pinot Grigio with seafood
Enjoy the Best European Wine Tours With Road Scholar
Ready to take on some of the best European wine tours? Enroll with Road Scholar today. At Road Scholar, we have a wide range of programs that visit the best European cities for food and wine. With expert guides and a diverse cohort, you’ll be able to taste and drink your way through Europe like never before.