Hong Kong's evolution into a wine hub will require much more than just a tax-free environment. The nurturing and development of wine professionals is just as pivotal to the city if it is to emerge as a serious contender in the wine business to London and New York. Bonhams Asia, the first auction house in Hong Kong to resume wine auctioning following a 10-year hiatus, has taken the first step to improve the standard of professionalism in the business with the launch of its wine education scholarships. A first in the city, the initiative will allow students with no previous wine studies or wine related experience to fulfil their dreams of joining the industry. 'The expansion of the wine industry has created an increased need for a qualified work force and this is where our Bonhams Wine Education Scholarships, the first in Hong Kong and Asia, fits in,' said Carson Chan, managing director of Bonhams Asia. 'We hope that the scholarships will enable young Hong Kong people, who are not in the wine industry, to enter [it]. Upon graduation, they will add to the pool of wine professionals essential to the further healthy development of the business in Hong Kong,' Mr Chan said. 'We are also doing this to support the government's goal in strengthening wine-related education and manpower training as part of its initiative to turn Hong Kong into a wine hub.' Ten scholarships, starting this September, are being offered. Eight of which are for the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) level3 advanced certificate, and two for the level4 diploma. The two-year level4 diploma in wines and spirits - the WSET's flagship qualification and widely regarded as a stepping stone to the master of wine qualification - teaches specialist knowledge of the world's wines and spirits. This combines with the commercial factors and a thorough system for the performance evaluation of wines and spirits. Topics covered will include the business of wine and wine production to teaching a thorough understanding of the world's spirits, light wines, sparkling wines and fortified wines. The WSET level3 advanced certificate in wines and spirits, a significantly shorter programme of just 31/2 months, offers a comprehensive overview of wines and spirits with an emphasis on tasting technique and the application of knowledge gained. The course, regarded as a prerequisite for students planning to take the WSET level4 diploma in wines and spirits qualification, is designed to provide a core body of knowledge of a wide range of wines and spirits around the world. It will equip students in a supervisory capacity with the authority and confidence to make informed decisions in a wide variety of trade situations. The Asia Wine Service and Education Centre, an approved programme provider, will teach the WSET courses. The Wine and Spirit Education Trust is the only wine education entity approved by the Qualifications Curriculum Authority, the British government's regulator for education. In addition to the courses, the students will also be involved in wine events organised by Bonhams and the Asia Wine Service and Education Centre. These internationally recognised qualification courses can pave the way for graduates to assume a gamut of roles within the industry, such as wine journalism, wine storage, senior sommelier positions, wine event planners, wine marketing and promotions, wine importing, wholesale and retail, and wine auctioneering.