LANZHOU, June 13 (Xinhua) -- With the rapid expansion of China's wine market in recent years, professional wine-tasters are in great demand.
Steven Hughes, who has managed wineries in France for 15 years, is impressed that wine has enjoyed strong sales in China. He says that China has brought in mid-range and high-end wine from all over the world and people's acceptance of wine is beyond what he had thought possible.
China imported up to 746 million liters of wine in 2017, with year-on-year growth of almost 17 percent, making China the fastest growing and fifth largest market worldwide, according to Xi Kang, co-sponsor and joint vice-chairman of the China Wine Associations Alliance.
"Young Chinese are keen on wine. They think wine is healthy and have money to enjoy it. You can see them holding goblets and drinking wine in restaurants on streets and alleys," Hughes said.
A growing wine market has led to a rising demand for wine tasters, which are listed as one of the 140 vocations that require a national qualification.
Kong Weibao, professor and associate dean of the College of Life Sciences of Northwest Normal University, set up an elective course called Vintage Science and Wine Culture in 2008, aiming at improving understanding of wine.
Few students chose Kong's class initially, but now it is hard to find a spare seat in his classroom. Kong said that more than 2,000 students had taken his course and some had waited two years to do so.
While most students take the course out of an interest in wine, there are also students who want to get a qualification certificate as a wine taster in the future.
"Wine tasting is a very interesting job. If I get the chance, I hope to learn more about it," said Ma Yanhong, a junior student at Northwest Normal University.
More and more private educational institutions in China have found business opportunities in the wine industry. They are offering various wine tasting training courses with prices varying between 120 and 1,600 U.S. dollars.
Zeng Jing, an employee at wine education service Tasting Annex, said the wine industry was in a rising period, and wine tasting was in great need as wine education, production, marketing, hotels and other fields showed strong demand.
"In recent years, those who come to apply for the wine-taster qualification certificate or seek advice are not limited to wine practitioners any more. More and more college students do so out of interest or valuing its prospects for development," Zeng said.
Xi Kang said that China's 80's and 90's generation pursued a healthy and high-quality lifestyle and had "a stronger learning ability and more advanced consumption concept," meaning demand for wine would continue to grow in the future.