A taste for knowledge
One of the major attractions of Vinexpo Asia-Pacific, from its first Hong Kong show in 1998, has been an expanding programme of tutored tastings, seminars, master classes and special presentations conducted by high-level wine and spirits industry professionals.
'This forum for the exchanging of ideas, discussion and tasting is of paramount interest for all those who want to see new products or enhance their knowledge,' observes Robert Beynat, chief executive of Vinexpo Asia-Pacific. 'Exhibitors and national and regional promotional organisations will be the prime attendees of events here.'
The Vinexpo Academy, as this year's programme has been dubbed, comprises more than 40 events from today until Thursday, 10 more than at the last Hong Kong event in 2008.
Wine tastings will cover Burgundy and Bordeaux Grand Crus, other French wines, German and Alsace Pinot Noirs and Rieslings, wines from Spain and Argentina, Venetian grape varietals and Spumante.
Seminars will offer insights on topics ranging from consumption of wine on the mainland to Hong Kong's booming wine auction market, and new developments in tracing the source of fine wine through the supply chain.
Visitors can even acquire a 'qualification' by attending three master classes using a Certificate Programme Pass, priced at HK$1,000. The Academy's sessions are restricted to wine and spirits professionals who are registered for the exhibition.
'Over and above the tasting sessions run by exhibitors, Vinexpo is offering a range of its own events around three themes that correspond to Asian market needs - 'Tasting', 'Matching' and 'Sales', presented by notable figures,' Beynat says.
Addressing the theme 'S for Sales' are William George and Lilli Pru'Homme of the Quebec Distribution Monopoly (SAQ), who will present a one-hour master class on 'Customer Service and Experience in Wine Retail: The SAQ Example', reflecting its expertise in merchandising and point-of-sales promotion.
Wine consultant and Hong Kong Independent Wine Centre founder Simon Tam is tackling the 'T for Tasting' theme with a one-hour master class entitled: 'Tasting Time'.
'While the majority of wine tasters are preoccupied with subjective and highly debatable flavour types, such as blackcurrant or sandalwood or chocolate, tasting time highlights how a good taster can use time to determine a large range of taste and quality issues,' Tam says.
'We will explore the relationship between the flavours and their timing - when and for how long. We will also compare and contrast different grape varieties' flavour, impact, timing and how this could give away their identity.
'Finally, we will taste a pair of almost identical wines, the only difference being vintage, hence how time changes taste.'
Teaching the 'M for Matching' theme with a one-hour master class on 'Matching Asian Flavours with Wine' is Jeannie Cho Lee, the first Asian woman to become a master of wine. She won the 2010 'Best in the World' competition in the category 'Best Book on Matching Food and Wine' at the French Gourmand World Cookbook Awards with her book Asian Palate.
Cho Lee will also launch a new multilingual website at the show, www.AsianPalate.com, aimed at promoting 'intelligent and insightful discussions about food and wine in Asia by providing forward-thinking news and commentary, and a platform for others to engage, share and respond'.
She says her class will 'explore how wine can alter the appreciation for classic Asian flavours' and allow participants to experience for themselves 'how common Asian ingredients affect wine's flavours'.
Riesling, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Champagne, or sparkling wine, will be paired with five Asian-flavour combinations - a soy sauce-based seafood dish; a chilli sauce-based stir-fry; a savoury braised dish; a deep-fried dish with a vinegar dip; and a tofu-based textured dish.
Each of these one-hour classes will be presented four times over the three days and will include a question and answer session.
'People come to Vinexpo to establish and strengthen business relationships, but also to learn. The Vinexpo Asia-Pacific 'Academy' will arm them with a wealth of new and relevant information and deepen their understanding of a complex subject and a demanding business,' Beynat says.