A popular feature of Vinexpo Asia-Pacific in previous years has been the 'University' - a programme of seminars and tastings geared to enhancing the professional knowledge and skills of all participants. This year, however, as part of the most ambitious University programme to date, the organisers are offering a 'degree', or at least a certificate of attendance, to those who participate in three or more of seven special sessions. According to Robert Beynat, chief executive of Vinexpo Asia-Pacific, the programme of 30 events was developed with key exhibitors, and in response to participant feedback from food and beverage professionals attending previous shows. 'There are a number of key issues which urgently need to be addressed,' Mr Beynat said. 'The key hospitality industry personnel attending Vinexpo Asia-Pacific 2008 want to know more about the fast-paced development of the Asian drinks market, and about how best to formulate marketing and sales strategies for this dynamic environment.' This year's 'curriculum' offers crash courses in the areas of product knowledge that visitors are believed to be keenest to upgrade. They include familiarity with the world's major wine producing areas, and understanding of the technical aspects of wine tasting, and of marrying food and wine. 'The emerging art and science of matching western wines with Asian food is a particularly interesting field for many hospitality industry professionals in Asia, and there will be seminars addressing its finer points,' Mr Beynat said. To present a fully comprehensive range of educational options from which visitors can select, Vinexpo has enlisted the assistance of experienced professional educators and important trade associations, in addition to companies exhibiting at the event. Among those offering programmes are the Hong Kong Sommeliers Association, Federacion Espanola del Vino, Sopexa Hong Kong and the International Wine Centre headed by food and wine expert - and South China Morning Post columnist - Simon Tam. The seven sessions in the certificate programme, all of which will be led by experts in the field, include a presentation by Nelson Chow, chairman of the Hong Kong Sommeliers Association, on selecting the appropriate glass for particular wines. Tam will give a presentation on how to identify corked wine, and will also supervise a blind tasting of single malt whisky at which he will speak on special cask finishes. He will also deliver a 'myth busting' talk on 'The Chinese Palate', and host a lunch pairing wines with Chinese food. Neurologist Jean-Marc Orgogozo will speak on the health benefits of moderate wine consumption, and a panel of speakers with direct experience in the field will address the subject of 'The Future of Consumption and Distribution of Wine in China'. A further 23 sessions, outside the certificate programme, will cover other subjects. A presentation by the Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux, a training organisation that has taught more than 14,000 people around the world, will introduce its training partners in Asia and its own training programmes. Bordeaux wines are a subject of particularly keen interest in the Asia-Pacific region, and among the bodies representing them offering presentations are L'Alliance des Crus Bourgeois du Medoc, Association de Grand Crus Classes de Saint Emilion, Conseil des Vins de Saint-Emilion, Le Syndicat des Grands Crus Classes de Sauternes et Barsac, Commanderie du Bontemps and Maison du Tourisme et du Vin de Pauillac. Andreas Larsson, Best Sommelier in the World in 2007, will discuss 'The Eternal Youth of the Great Sauternes and Barsac wines'. There will also be a seminar on Alsace wines, a tasting of the Grands Crus of both Bordeaux and Burgundy, tastings of Spanish wines and a presentation on understanding 'wine trends'. A tasting of Italian wines is entitled 'A Choice of Italian Rising Stars, North to South', while a tasting of German wines takes the theme 'The Riesling and Pinot Noir Dream Team' and is organised by the Deutsches Weininstitut. Mr Beynat stressed that the 'University' experience would be as much to do with personal interaction among professionals as with taking notes. 'As well as listening to lecturers, participants in the events will have the opportunity to exchange ideas and make useful professional connections,' Mr Beynat said. 'Vinexpo is much more than just a trade fair. It is a forum for the best minds and palates in the business to meet, mingle and learn from each other. This, after all, is a subject about which you never stop learning.' Admission to most sessions is free to holders of a 'University pass'. Some, however, are by invitation only.