France – In Epernay built on champagne – quite literally. Some 70 miles of cellars, filled with 200 million bottles, hide under this self-proclaimed capital of bubbly. On the town’s outskirts lies France’s official champagne school, where future masters learn their craft. A full course here takes two years, but members of the public can get a crash course on one of the day workshops.
Under expert guidance, study how champagne is made, discover the secrets of terroir and different grape varieties, and learn how to use sight, smell and taste while sampling 10 different cuvees. Back in town, explore Avenue du Champagne, a boulevard of Neoclassical villas built by the big producing families, and dine at restaurants such as La Cavek Champagne, where typically champenois dishes, including snails and veal in mustard sauce, can be paired with flights of the region’s finest vintages.
Italy – Blending Mediterranean and North African food, Sicilian is among the most distinctive of Italy’s regional cuisines, and the Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School offers total immersion in the island’s culinary culture. Hosted in a 19th-century stone farmhouse, part of the aristocratic family’s wine estate, the Food and Culture itineraries include classes on how to cook ingredients harvested from the kitchen garden, plus visits to local producers. Depending on the season, guests might visit pizzerias, ricotta cheesemakers and more, but all can expect fantastic meals featuring flavor some local produce.
Spain – Acorn-fed Iberico pigs make Spanish ham the best in the world, and a leg from one of these premium porkers becomes a legitimate souvenir option after completing A Taste of Spain’s Ibarico ham carving course. Under the tutelage of an English-speaking master carver at ham shop Gondiaz, knife-wielding novices learn about the product while whittling off their own slices. Then it’s next door to Restaurante La Mi Venta for tapas dishes including Ibarico cooked over charcoal. Extend your culinary journey with visits to Madrid’s food markets – San Miguel and San Anton have good charcuterie stalls – and to the Museo del Jamon, with its array of ceiling-hung hams.