Demand for local wine courses reflects growing Chinese interest
Wine educator WSET opens office in Hong Kong, its first outside the UK, to cater to growing interest in courses and programmes in the region
Given the growth of wine culture in Asia, it should come as no surprise that wine courses are in huge demand. Education is highly valued in the region, especially Hong Kong.
The WSET (Wine and Spirits Education Trust) is widely considered a global leader in wine education. Last academic year, more than 72,000 people in 70 countries in 19 languages took one of their courses. The trust began offering courses in China in 2006 and now boasts a network of more than 130 approved programme providers, whose courses are being keenly taken up by students. China is WSET’s largest growth market; with an increase of 38 per cent in the number of candidates last academic year, it overtook the USA as WSET’s second-biggest market, just behind the UK, the Trust’s homeland. Last year, the Trust invested further in our position as its most promising market by choosing Hong Kong as the location to open its first international office outside the UK.
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Ian Harris, WSET chief executive, said, “We have provided WSET qualifications through providers in Hong Kong since the turn of the millennium, and the expansion into and across mainland China over the past 10 years has been phenomenal.”
The vast number of participants is not China’s only impressive statistic the level of knowledge and commitment of the students is also remarkable. The last six winners of the Vintners’ Cup, which is awarded to the graduate who achieves the highest overall marks in its Diploma, were women, and three were from Asia. Move over Caucasian men!
Despite increasing numbers of eager wine students, many people still feel intimidated to approach wine. My ethos is that a mix of education and experience is the key to unlocking your enjoyment. Wine lovers looking to elevate their interest to the next level should first seek some education to develop their confidence and skills, then taste, taste, taste! Classes will give you a wonderful appreciation for wine, but nobody knows your taste like you do. At the end of May, my own venture opens in Hong Kong’s Southern district – the first wine school in the area.
The local trade and industry pursues ever-higher standards through training, too. At ProWine’s Asia Wine Summitearlier this month, experts discussed how training is boosting professionalism and career progress for those in the food and beverage business. Importers, F&B professionals and sales staff must continually build their knowledge and skills. And this is happening. Hong Kong’s trade educational organisation, WineSPIT (Wine Sales Professionals, Industry and Trade), has seen tremendous growth since its launch in 2013. At the end of April, WineSPIT members honed their winemaking knowledge by attending a host of international presentations, including by China’s best winemaker, Emma Gao from Silver Heights, Ningxia, Gary Jordan from Jordan Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, and Peter Nicholas, general manager of Boutique Wines. Members also heard from Hong Kong’s best sommeliers on the major trends that are driving the city’s wine scene.
And I am thrilled to see the rising number of Asian-based students in the Masters of Wine programme. In the past few years we’ve seen the first Masters of Wine in India (Sonal Holland), mainland China (Fongyee Walker), Japan (Kenichi Ohashi), and Taiwan (Mark Pygott), with many more students studying hard for this highly-sought after qualification. Having locally-based experts will further encourage the level of wine knowledge and passion throughout Asia.