How to Work in the Wine Industry
By Catherine Tansey
A career in the wine industry has long held romantic allure for many. Imagining elaborate lunches with fellow wine professionals or days spent at renowned châteaus, it’s easy to see why. But in reality, the wine industry and the roles that make it work are as varied and complex as the grapes used in the process. The hands-on type often prefers winery or oenology work, while those with a penchant for sales thrive in distributor or hospitality roles. Let’s take a look as some professions in the wine industry and how to land one today:
With a keen sense of smell and taste, a talent for critically solving problems, and deep reverence for wine, wine makers are the ones behind your favorite every-day brand and those special occasion bottles you’ve been reserving for years. Many winemakers head to university for a degree in viticulture, oenology, or wine science to grasp the complex theory behind turning grapes to wine. From there, aspiring winemakers do well to seek out internships or work harvests at various wineries around the globe. The key here is diversity. The world of wine is diverse and to avoid a one-dimensional approach to one’s own wine, it’s beneficial to gain as much varied experience as possible.
Wine Sales Jobs
Wine sales jobs come in all shapes and sizes. Sales reps, or wine sales representatives, are the people responsible for getting the wine from the winery or distributor to the restaurant, wine shop, and ultimately to the consumer. Wine reps often work either directly with wineries or with distributors where they’re tasked with moving large quantities of bottles. For a wine sales job, it’s important to have better-than-average wine knowledge (for example to know the difference between a California Chardonnay and one from the Mâconnais) but the imperative here is to know more than your client. Which brings us to our next point: sales chops. Those working in wine sales jobs are salespeople first and foremost, and they need to be able to talk the talk and walk the walk. Brush up on your wine knowledge and people skills if you’re hoping to land a wine sales job.
Wine Taster Jobs
In reality, just about every job in the wine industry requires some ability to taste and talk about wine, but there are some roles where this is more prominent. For those blessed with an especially perceptive palate, a professional wine tasting job could be for you. Wine tasters work in a variety of settings to ensure quality control, educate others on the nuances of wine, or work as professional sommeliers. Individuals with the ability perceive flaws as well as describe characteristics of a wine—body, acidity, sweetness, tannin, and alcohol—are in-demand at multiple steps throughout a wine’s lifecycle. Needed on location to ensure the desired outcome is being produced, wine tasters work at wineries during the vinification process. They’re also often on staff to help educate and aid guests visiting the winery in uncovering the special subtleties of the wine produced on-site or in tasting rooms elsewhere.
Wine Writer Jobs
Earned your stripes for years in restaurants taking about and selling wine? Sat for the WSET or Court of Master Sommeliers tests and passed? Have a knack for written communication and want to share your love and knowledge of wine with others? A wine writer job may be for you. Wine writers do everything write copy to create marketing campaigns to publish journalistic deep dives in the wine world. With experience and years of dedication to the job, some become true thought leaders who taste and talk about wine publicly, ultimately influencing the production, distribution, and consumption of wine globally.
Wine Production Jobs
Want to get hands-on? While you probably won’t be living your Lucille-Ball-wine-making fantasy, you will gain valuable experience in production. Wine production jobs include everything from working on the bottling line and running forklifts to maintenance and shipping and receiving. Production and warehouse roles are essential for ensuring that wine is correctly and safely bottled, shipped, and delivered. If you’re organized, efficient, and excited about using your warehouse, back-of-house, shipping and receiving, or related skills to keep the wine industry moving, then these are the roles are for you.
Wine season starts in late summer, so now is the time begin your search. At Nelson, we’ve been placing top talent with across all roles and functions in the wine industry for nearly 50 years. For more information on how Nelson can help you find your next wine role, search our jobs today.