How to learn more about wine in France
From classrooms to vineyards, France’s wine regions offer myriad ways to study wine.
You can learn more about wine from books, online tutorials and a number of formal and informal courses, but learning about wine in the context of place takes education to another level. If you’re traveling through wine country, why not add a few lessons to your itinerary? Just make sure you don’t ruin your vacation studying for an exam.
It is no surprise that wine education is well developed in France, from professional degrees from renowned oenological schools to dedicated commercial programs like the one offered by the International Organization of Vine and Wine. But the more casual student can also learn in context. Here are some places to study on the lighter side.
In Dijon, The International City of Gastronomy and Wine (CIGV) will open on May 6 a new cultural and educational oenological hub, offering tasting experiences carried out by the Burgundy Wine School. The 5000 square meter space will offer an immersive experience with images and video mapping on all four walls, accompanied by related tasting experiences ranging from an introduction to wine, vintage and terroir to gastronomic pairings. Each workshop will feature three to five wines, and those who want in-depth exposure can arrange a personalized experience. Conducted in French and English, the workshops are priced from 20 to 29 euros per person for 40 to 60 minutes. Reservations begin in April with tickets available on the CIGV and wine school websites.
Affiliated with regional wine councilthe Bordeaux Wine School has been around since 1989 and offers courses and workshops from beginner to advanced, as well as custom training for groups and organizations. A popular option for novices is the “Discovery” series which covers the basics (around €32/US$39 for a two-hour class with four wines tasted); wine pairing class including a six-wine tasting at a restaurant for around US$133. For $60, at the “connoisseur” level designed for professionals, you can delve into practical topics such as blending, wine aromas, and the basics of French wine law.
Passing through Bordeaux, if you want to learn for yourself, the City of Wine The Wine Museum, opened in 2016, is an immersive and interactive experience in everything wine, from history and culture to workshops and hands-on tasting events. The permanent collection – a journey through timelines and senses that includes 20 “digital spaces” and up to 10 hours of content – averages two to three hours. Or book one of four one-hour themed tours. Tickets are 21 euros (for same-day entry) and include entry to the permanent exhibition, a multimedia guide, and a glass of wine in the Belvedere tasting room with its panoramic view of the city.
Heading south, Provence wine estate Blue Oak organizes an “Extreme Wine” course – a complete five-day immersion WSET instruction module provided on-site at The canopy, its medieval priory. Launched in 2008, the course has been described by Decanter magazine as having an “inspiring, salon-like atmosphere.” Base Extreme Wine is based on WSET Level 2, and Level 3 is offered as a “Beyond Extreme” option (email winery for 2022 dates). Operator Nicole Rolet can personalize tailor-made courses on request. The benefit of the Rolet program is the opportunity to truly learn close to a working vineyard. Students can stay on site at the Priory for the full holiday/learning experience – a menu of accommodation, options and rates is here).
If you plan to stay a while, you could sign up for a WSET course at Wineschool, a London-based approved program provider run by British wine master Matthew Stubbs in the Languedoc, just 28 kilometers south of the medieval walled city of Carcassonne. The school offers all four WSET levels, from beginner to expert, as well as preparatory training for the Master of Wine exam. Private tutorials are also available.