Hong Kong's first wine registration scheme was launched yesterday to cement the city's status as Asia's wine-trading hub. The scheme, launched by the Hong Kong Quality Assurance Agency, recognises the ability of wine traders, merchants, wholesalers, distributors, retailers, cellars and transporters to maintain and retrieve records of the wine they handle. Twenty-two companies are participating in the pilot scheme. Since wine duty was scrapped in 2008, wine imports have grown exponentially, as has the choice of wine on offer. Agency chief executive officer Michael Lam Po-hing said buying wine was "an increasingly challenging endeavour" and knowing the source of a wine was a key factor for prudent consumers. "The appearance of the case and the bottle inside often does not tell its travel history or whether it has been mishandled by an inattentive owner," he said. Next year, the agency will launch an online platform and promotional labels, each containing a unique code. Consumers can scan the code with a smartphone to find more information and confirm the wine has been handled by a registered company. Law So-ping, executive director of participating company Elizabeth Wines, said, the scheme would give "additional confidence to customers that we know the wine and where it comes from. And if there is a problem, we can trace it back." Law said the source and date of a wine could greatly affect its quality and value, even wine of the same vintage. "Every single bottle is different," he said. Law said international participation was needed for a complete system as wine could pass through several countries before reaching Hong Kong, but the scheme would help on the domestic front. The registration scheme follows the agency's wine storage management systems certification scheme, which was launched in 2010. The latter certifies companies that store wine in the right conditions, such as at the optimum temperature, humidity and light. Fifty-five companies have been certified to date.