Looking beneath the skin
Recent years have seen a boom in wine education worldwide, and particularly in Asia. Some of the region's leading providers of services are exhibiting at the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair.
These exhibitors offer classes ranging from introductions to the basics of wine, to advanced courses leading to qualifications awarded by the British-based Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), the most widely recognised examining authority.
Some are fully fledged educational institutions and run their courses independently of wine suppliers. Others are wine merchants who run courses as an extra service to customers.
Among the former accredited by the WSET are the Hong Kong University School of Professional and Continuing Education (HKUSPACE) (hkuspace.hku.hk), the Hong Kong Wine Academy (www. hkwineacademy.com) and the Asia Wine Service and Education Centre (AWSEC) (www.awsec.com).
AWSEC offers WSET courses up to diploma level - a two-year course which no other wine education supplier in Hong Kong is authorised to teach.
Courses in Hong Kong are offered in English, Cantonese and Putonghua, and AWSEC has expanded its operations to offer courses on the mainland and in Russia, India, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.
The WSET is also an exhibitor. The organisation has qualifications available in 55 countries and taught in 16 languages.
Among the exhibiting wine merchants which also offer courses, seminars and master classes in wine appreciation, are Treasury Wine Estates, Concord Fine Wines, Greystone Wines, Maxford Wines and Berry Bros & Rudd (BBR).
Treasury Wine Estates will be bringing in its own chief sparkling winemaker Charles Hargrave, winemaker Steph Dutton from Penfolds, and Nikolai St George, chief winemaker of Matua NZ, to its booth.
'The sessions will feature wines which are either made in very limited quantities, or are not readily available in Asia,' says Roman Linert, marketing director of Asia Treasury Wine Estates.
'We are very pleased that so many of our current and potential trade partners have already expressed interest in participating. Our winemakers/ambassadors will also be available to conduct tastings and meet with any of the visitors who attend our booth for the duration of the wine fair.'
Amanda Parker, general manager of BBR's Hong Kong Fine Wine Centre, says education is a customer service.
'People can learn and have fun. We have very small classes, usually about 10 people, so you get much more interaction between the tutor and the students,' she says.
BBR is able to call on several Masters of Wine who work for the company, including Burgundy expert Jasper Morris and Bordeaux authority Alun Griffiths.
'Wine has become much more a part of our society and people want to understand more about what they are choosing,' concludes Parker.