Learn from the masters

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2012, 12:00am


It is increasingly generally accepted within the wine and spirits business in Asia that market education is the key to sales success. Consumers are becoming more sophisticated in their tastes. Many more are now moving from making choices on a basis of simple brand recognition towards discerning personal preferences that reflect real understanding of a wide range of products.

There is a growing demand for detailed information, which frontline sales staff and food and beverage personnel have to be able to supply. This means they in turn need continuous education, upgrading and updating their professional knowledge. VINEXPO Asia-Pacific 2012 is one of the best opportunities they have to learn.

This year's show will enable professional visitors to find out about new products and vintages, while organisers have also arranged many special presentations and tastings.

A particularly important element of the programme is a series of sessions grouped together under the banner of the VINEXPO Asia-Pacific Academy, which offers a three-day calendar of more than 60 events.

Structured tastings have been organised by nine major producing countries: Italy, which will focus on wines from the Piedmont region made with the nebbiolo grape, France for the Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace and Beaujolais regions, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Brazil, Chile and Argentina.

There will be opportunities to hear the views of and put questions to leading winemakers and wine and spirits authorities.

A strong list of guest speakers includes some of the most influential figures in the industry, including Bernard Hickin, chief winemaker of Pernod Ricard's Jacob's Creek brand, one of the most widely exported of Australian wines and an instantly recognisable label all over the world.

Hickin has worked with Orlando Wines, which established Jacob's Creek and was later acquired by Pernod Ricard, since 1976 - the year the label was launched.

Michel Rolland, the original 'flying winemaker' will deliver a presentation entitled 'Why Do They Call Me a Wine Guru?'

Born and raised in Bordeaux, where he still owns chateaux, Rolland has made wine in France and about a dozen other countries including Spain, South Africa, Chile, Argentina and India. The Frenchman has been hugely influential throughout the industry and his winemaking style is widely emulated.

Some of the world's top palates will also be present. Visitors to the academy will have the rare opportunity to put questions to past winners of the World's Best Sommelier competition, Shinya Tasaki (1995), Andreas Larsson (2007) and Gerard Basset (2010).

Several holders of the master of wine qualification, one of the toughest in the world to obtain, will be running seminars at the academy, among them South African Lynne Sheriff, American Charles Curtis, New Zealander Bob Campbell and German Caro Maurer.

Both Hong Kong's resident masters of wine, Debra Meiburg and Jeannie Cho Lee, will also be imparting their knowledge.

Curtis, who is Asia head of wine for auction house Christie's, Wine Intelligence co-founder Lulie Halstead and Lilli Prud'homme of the Quebec Distribution Monopoly (SAQ) will also be offering their professional insights into the likely development of the growing Asian wine market.

Several of those industry experts will also be lecturing in a certificated programme in which wine and spirits professionals, registered as visitors of the exhibition, can enrol by buying the academy's certificated programme pass for HK$1,000.

The programme comprises master classes on three subject areas identified as being of critical importance to the industry today: wine tasting, food and wine matching, and sales and marketing. Each will be presented by an internationally acknowledged expert in the field.

Andreas Larsson's master class is entitled 'Looking Beyond the Label: the Virtues of Blind Tasting'. Master sommelier Larsson travels the world as a consultant, teacher, speaker, jury member and taster, and he has a well-earned reputation as an entertaining and erudite speaker. He is known to have a special interest in classic French wine, the recent evolution of wine in Spain and great riesling, sherry and champagne.

Meiburg, who recently published an authoritative book on the wine business in Hong Kong, Debra Meiburg's Guide to the Hong Kong Wine Trade, is an expert on food and wine pairings and has some provocative views on matching Asian dishes with Western wines. Her master class is entitled 'Eight Treasures: Pairing Wines with Chinese Flavours'.

The sales and marketing master class is presented by Prud'homme, who is business development manager of SAQ, and Jose Chagnon, who is supply chain manager.

All the master classes will be presented in English, but simultaneous translation into Japanese, Korean and Putonghua will be offered. Professional visitors who have bought the programme pass and attended all three sessions will be eligible for the VINEXPO Asia-Pacific 2012 Academy Certificate.

Master classes are each delivered four times in the course of the three-day show, enabling visitors to attend at the most convenient time. The certificate programme pass can be purchased online on the exhibition website at www.vinexpo.com/en/visiting/programme/academy/.