Mar 06, 2008|
In a wine-obsessed town like Hong Kong, it’s pretty hard to get by without picking up the basics of wine knowledge. But few among us can profess to being a master in the art of alcoholic grape juice – but with the government's recent abolishment of the wine duty, now is a better time than ever to become one.
If you’re looking to get some serious wine credentials, signing up for a course under the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) – the widely recognized, UK-based accreditation body, and industry standard when it comes to wine education – might be a good place to start. “Although geared toward those in the business, you’ll quite often see a lot of housewives and finance types in attendance,” says wine merchant Liquid Asset’s Jasmine Robertson, a recent foundation level graduate. Most local wine schools offer the WSE course, which is divided into three modules ranging between eight to thirty hours in length, followed by a two-year diploma.
So what’s the course like? “In a word, difficult,” says Robertson, “There’s a lot of memorization, and the pronunciation of French wines can also be a challenge.” According to Berry Brothers School instructor James Owen, beginners typically learn the principles of tasting, the major grape varieties and the basics of pairing. In the intermediate stage, they start to explore specific regions, while advanced pupils look at specific regions in greater depth. But those already familiar with the basics of wine (grape varieties, tasting) can skip the beginner level and move straight to intermediate.
According to Owen, after completing a wine course many students later go on to pursue the diploma, “which is predominantly focused on the more intricate parts of the topic, such as wine-making.” The diploma is particularly valuable to those aspiring to or already working in the F&B industry. But many students are nothing more than enthusiastic amateurs.
The truly dedicated move on to the Masters of Wine program, which is more akin to a doctorate. Be warned, though: with only 255 graduates globally and a pass rate of just 7.5 percent, it still remains an endeavor best suited to professionals or only the most dedicated of enthusiasts. Local instructor Jeanie Cho is currently on her way to becoming the first Asian-born student to attain the qualification.
Berry Bros and Rudd Fine Wine School
International wine merchants Berry Brothers are now offering courses in collaboration with local wine enthusiast, Jeannie Cho. Tutored tastings, and one-/half-day schools with Jeanie are available, with prices ranging between $995-$4,995 per head. WSET Foundation and Intermediate courses are priced at $3,995, and $7,500 per head respectively Suite 4305, 43/F, China Resources Building, 26 Harbour Rd., Wan Chai, 2585-6001, www.bbr.com.hk.
Concord Fine Wines
The Concord Institute offers short courses throughout the year, specializing in a range of different regions and grape varieties. The school is currently offering several region-specific classes, with prices ranging between $600 and $680 per head. Foundation, Intermediate, and Advanced WSET courses are also available for $1,980, $6,800, and $9,800 per head respectively. 4/F, B2B Center, 35-36 Connaught Rd. West, Sheung Wan, 2111-3009, www.concordwines.com.hk.
International Wine Centre
IWC is said to offer one of the most comprehensive introductory wine appreciation courses in town. Priced between $3,500-$7,000 per head, the program includes course notes, tuition, and tasting sessions. Region-specific classes are also available at $900 per head, with WSET Intermediate, and Advanced level programs priced at $5,500, and $6,000 per head respectively. 1603, Skyline Centre, 71-77 Wing Lok St., Sheung Wan, 2549-0181, www.iwinecentre.com.
In its annual budget last week, the government announced a complete abolishment of its 40 percent wine duty. The effect: lower prices, but that's just for starters. “Following last year’s rate cuts of 80 to 40 percent, we witnessed an almost-immediate 15 percent fall in prices at retail level,” says Wine and Spirits Industry Coalition Co-chairman, Boris de Vroomen.
“It seems only logical to expect a similar drop this time around.” But more exciting will be the rate cut’s effect on the variety of wines, says Berry Brothers and Rudd Managing Director, Nicholas Pegna. “Expect to see an enormous range of bottles that were previously underrepresented in the market. The level of competitiveness will be such that Hong Kong will soon be the best place to buy wine, certainly in Asia, if not the world.”