World class | UK-based WSET picks Hong Kong for its first international office

By Jim Boyce | Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) will open its first international office in Hong Kong next month, a move that makes sense given greater China is already its second-biggest market after the UK, with 13,000-plus candidates for 2015-2016, and seems destined for strong growth. The office opening is slated for November 10.

Wine education has grown by leaps and bounds in China and not just in terms of WSET, which has 9,079 candidates in continental China, 3,576 in Hong Kong and 486 in Macau for 2015-2016. The promotion of certificate programs by country-specific groups like VinItaly and Wine Australia, the growing presence of professional organizations like International Sommelier Guild and Society of Wine Educators, and the popularity of contests like the Young China Sommelier Team Competition that drew over 1,000 applicants this year, show a thirst for knowledge. And a thirst for certification and awards, for as much as the word “passion” is bandied about when it comes to wine and education, a major driving force is the desire to boost resumes in an increasingly competitive sector.

Here’s more from WSET:

On 10 November 2016, WSET will mark the official opening of its first international office in Hong Kong, WSET Asia Pacific, in response to high demand for wine and spirit education across Greater China.

WSET is the largest global provider of wines and spirits qualifications, with a record 72,171 candidates during the academic year 2015/16. Following the UK, China has overtaken the USA to be the second biggest market for WSET and the largest growth market, with candidate numbers for 2015/16 up 38% on the previous year and course registrations for 2016/17 showing no signs of slowing.

As demand continues to increase, WSET prioritised Hong Kong for the opening of its first international office to better meet the needs of the region. The Wan Chai office will be staffed by a team of four with operations focusing on providing support to WSET’s local network of course providers, educators and corporate partners, as well as the growing WSET alumni community. Plans are being put in place to expand operations to include examination support in the future.

According to WSET chief executive Ian Harris, there are now 130 ‘APPs’ (Approved Program Providers) in greater China. He also notes the first WSET courses in China were in 2006. That dates me as I took an introductory class in Beijing with ASC’s Dorian Tang, now a Master of Wine candidate, in September of that year. Alack and alas, I remain at level 1.

Here’s the distribution of WSET candidates across the world:


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