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Portugal, New York and Beyond: 8 Of the Coolest Places To Study Wine

Anyone who has ever studied wine will tell you that there is almost always something new to learn. So, why not take your studies on the road? From educational opportunities in New York’s Finger Lakes, to Scotland, Portugal and beyond, there is no shortage of courses you can take and regions to explore.  

And there are so many types of learning opportunities when it comes to wine education. Whether you’re looking to achieve your Wine & Spirit Education Trust diploma (WSET) or take classes in everything from the basics of viticulture to grape varieties, here are the coolest places to study wine all over the world.

8 Wine Courses Around the World

WOW Porto
Image Courtesy of WOW Porto

The Wine School at WOW    

Porto, Portugal

In the heart of Portugal’s new cultural district, the World of Wine (WOW) offers plenty of opportunities to learn about vino, Portuguese culture and beyond. Aside from the seven wine museums and 12 food and beverage stops for guests to learn and enjoy at their leisure, WOW has its own wine school.

Not sure where to start? The two-hour Demystifying Wine workshop covers the fundamentals of wine, like the basic principles of how it’s produced, important terminology and how to taste and analyze wine for around $32. And if you’re happy with level one, you can sign up for level two, three or four to expand your knowledge to include chocolate and wine, Portuguese wine regions and worldwide grape varieties.

If you’re looking for something a little more intensive, WOW offers WSET I or II courses in both English and Portuguese. The WSET courses require advance sign-up and dates fluctuate so visit their website for the next available session. Additionally, WOW offers walk-in, private and personalized tastings and masterclasses through their wine school.

Vernaccia Di San Gimignano Wine Experience La Rocca

San Gimignano, Italy

A stroll to the top of this medieval Tuscan hill town is worth it for aficionados ready to immerse themselves in Italian wine, specifically San Gimignano’s Vernaccia—the region’s most popular white wine.

The Wine Experience is a two-hour masterclass that explores this white Tuscan variety. The class starts with an overview of Vernaccia’s wine production, history and vineyards. From there, students will learn about the grape’s aromas in a perfume and spice room. Afterward, there’s a tasting of six wines and a gastronomic pairing lesson, which will show students how to pair Vernaccia with everything from bruschetta to pecorino cheese. The masterclass can be held in Italian, English and French.

Chêne Bleu Extreme Wine
Image Courtesy of Chêne Bleu Extreme Wine

Chêne Bleu Extreme Wine

Provence, France

For a longer, fully immersive course, oenophiles will want to check out Chêne Bleu’s Extreme Wine or Beyond Extreme courses for WSET II and WSET III, respectively. The week-long programs are about $8,500 and include full room and board at the Chêne Bleu estate, gourmet meals and top-rated wines, chosen WSET level certification (of which they have a 100% pass rate since the class’s 2008 inception) and the property’s own wine knowledge certificate.

The courses are taught by experts in the field, like Clive Barlow, Rod Smith and Nick Dumergue. There are also special guests, such as Adrianna Catena, fourth-generation winemaker at Catena Zapata in Argentina. And in the past, classes have taken trips to Château La Nerthe, Maison Gabriel Meffre, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas.

teacher explaining with line up of wines tasted during WSET Level 3 course at the Mau Mau Underground in Barcelona
Image Courtesy of Rack and Return

Rack and Return

Barcelona, Spain

Rack and Return was founded by three friends with a shared love for wine and dedication to teaching WSET I through WSET III courses. But this version is slightly different. If you’ve taken a WSET course, you know tasting is a critical component. However, Rack and Return students will not only be tasting wines typically found in a WSET classroom but also experience wines with minimal intervention and other selections that are gaining more popularity.

Another unique factor is that all Rack and Return’s teachers either make wines themselves or are ambassadors for Cava, Canary wines, Sherry and Alicante. Courses are available in English and Spanish.   

Once Finger Lakes
Image Courtesy of Once Finger Lakes

Once Finger Lakes

Finger Lakes, New York

For a tranquil opportunity to learn more about one of the United States’ largest wine regions, and to attend in-person WSET courses (levels I through III), try the Cultivate FLX program offered at Once Finger Lakes tasting room. The WSET classes are held weekly, for no more than two hours at a time, with dates varying throughout the year and taught by international wine experts.

For a less intensive course, take advantage of one of the tasting room’s flight options to learn more about the Finger Lakes. The Discovery FLX Flight showcases four of the region’s wines centered around a certain theme. Whereas the Flights & Bites option helps educate students on the region’s wine and food pairing options.

Lothian Wine School

Edinburgh, Scotland

This independent wine education company offers a variety of courses in Edinburgh. Beginners can sign up for their two-hour introduction to wine courses or a four-week starter course. These classes have a wine range of topics including wines from Burgundy, Loire and Rhône to Spanish tapas and wine pairings.  

Perhaps one of the more informal and relevant ones for visitors to Edinburgh is their Scottish Food and Wine pairing course, highlighting seven culinary pairings. Past combinations have included Highland game terrine with New Zealand Pinot Noir and Loch Rannoch smoked duck with Valpolicella

Those looking to learn more about a specific wine region (from France to Australia), should look at their specialized two-hour World of Wine programs. Lothian also offers WSET courses.    

Bob’s Wine Certificate Course - Bob Campbell MW and The Real Review
Image Courtesy of Bob’s Wine Certificate Course

Bob Campbell’s Wine Certificate Course 

Auckland, New Zealand

Designed explicitly for consumers, this full-day course is held at the wine shop, Caro’s, and is led by Master of Wine Bob Campbell.

The day consists of food and wine pairing as well as teachings on the characteristics of major wine types, how to store wine, how to determine serving temperatures and more. The course is about $160, which includes a notebook, a certificate and the dozens of wines tasted throughout the day.

Burgundy Wine School
Image Courtey of Burgundy Wine School

Burgundy Wine School

Beaune, France

Cristina Otel founded Burgundy Wine School in 2009 after graduating with various degrees in viticulture and oenology in Burgundy. The wine courses aptly focus on the eponymous variety of the region with courses for both beginners and advanced students.

Otel’s introductory class on Burgundy wines is a two-hour opportunity for students to learn the overview of the region and wine, including her depiction of the landscape composing Burgundy, the notions of taste and the history of the place. (She even starts the class with a blank piece of paper on which she draws this landscape). The second hour is all about tasting, including handpicked wines from five subregions of Burgundy that average a total value of about $971 (she uses a Coravin so the class is not this pricey). The class runs for about $248.

For the advanced, Otel offers two-day classes which showcase Burgundy in even more detail, with the first day focused on Burgundy whites. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to visit every single village of Côte de Beaune and compare tasting of 15 to 20 labels. The second day covers red Burgundy, a visit to the entire area of the Côte de Nuits and a similar tasting comparison. The class is about $1,550.