Wine is a great hobby; it’s an even better career. Getting started in wine is the best idea you will ever have. At least, it was for me! The wine trade offers a surprisingly vast tapestry of work opportunities. Unlike other passions, it’s the one vice that pays well and offers prestige across most segments of American life.
In our opinion, learning about wine might be the single best idea you’ve ever had. It was for us. It is a noble career that returns dividends to those who invest their time.
Getting Started in Wine
The first question we need to ask is: why do you want to work in wine? It’s okay if the answer is a little vain or silly. Maybe you are a little starstruck by sommeliers in Manhattan. Maybe you’ve binged on all six hundred Netflix wine documentaries. Maybe you ended up on the wine school’s website and realized people do this for a living. Maybe you love food, and you just realized that what you eat is only half the story.
The reason doesn’t matter how you ended up here, just that you are here. It’s never too late to become part of the wine trade. And don’t worry; there’s enough here for all of us.
Learning About Wine
Wine knowledge draws from a diverse array of disciplines. You will be exposed to history, geology, geography, gastronomy, chemistry, enology, and climate science.
Most importantly, you will need to develop your palate systematically. Every fine wine tells a story, but you will need to know what you are tasting.
If you’re ready for one of the most exciting and challenging journeys of your life, we want to share with you some tips to get you started in the fantastic world of wine and become a connoisseur and wine lover.
Stop by Your Local Bookstore
The Internet is brimming with wine learning resources, and many of them are great. However, learning the old-fashioned way can be more instructive. Of course, if you must, you can always hit up Amazon.
Buy a book written for beginners, Wine for Normal People by Elizabeth Schneider, is a great place to start. Read and make notes, and get a general impression of the width and depth of the wine universe. Getting started in wine is Elizabeth’s forte.
After you feel you’ve got the basics covered, buy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson, and use it as your pillow. Make reading about wine a habit, and I mean real books like this.
Buy Some Wine
Getting started in the wine trade means investing in some wine bottles.
You’ll probably spend more and more time browsing your local wine store. So take your time and find bottles from the regions you’re studying at the moment.
Never buy the same bottle twice; there’s too much out there to repeat. Don’t forget it’s never about buying only the expensive stuff; many classic wine styles are cheaper than you think.
Are you still at the store? Get yourself a pair of wine glasses; they’re always an excellent investment and will help you pick up aromas easier.
Talk to Sommeliers
If you are going out to a fine dining restaurant, make sure to talk with the sommelier. Order a bottle of wine, and ask questions. Sommeliers love talking about the technical aspects of putting together a wine list. Ask them about their path to getting started in wine.
Getting Started in Wine: Taste, Taste, Taste
I’m saying taste, and not just drink. Tasting is an art form; it’s a step-by-step method that takes you through all your senses to appreciate wine better. Everything you see, smell, and taste are there for a reason, and connecting the dots, and understanding the cause and effect for every aspect of wine is the key to interpreting it.
Keep a tasting journal and write wine notes, be as thorough as you wish, and don’t forget to go back to your records every once in a while. Where did I taste something similar? It’s all there in your notes.
Visit a Wine Region
Books are all right, and so are pictures. But, nothing is as impactful as being in the place. So, spread your arms and walk a vineyard, lose yourself in a musty wine cellar, and most importantly, talk to people. Tasting wine with the person that made it is the single most valuable experience you can have to understand its subtleties.
Keep your eyes open for restaurants that cater to the locals. Knowing the local cuisine will help to understand the wines they make. Take notes and polish your wine pairing skills at the source.
Getting Started in Wine: Talk to Winemakers
While traveling, make sure to visit wineries. If you can, schedule a tour with the winemaker. You will learn a lot about the wine trade simply by talking to someone who makes wine for a living. Just make a conscious effort to not get drunk: it’s poor form and you won’t remember much. This is research!
Wine 101 Course
At the end of the day, you will need a rounded education. You can travel and read as much as you like, but none of that will compare to learning about wine from a brilliant sommelier instructor. So take a few wine classes on subjects you are interested in and a few you haven’t heard of.
To be truly challenged, you need to attend a structured online sommelier program. It will expand your abilities in a way that you didn’t realize was possible.
Become a Wine Instructor
Teaching others is a fantastic way of reinforcing your knowledge. However, remember that with experience comes power, and that power leads to snobbery, so keep your feet on the ground and share what you’ve just learned with your spouse, friends, and colleagues.
Teach, don’t preach, and remember when you knew nothing about wine; always remember that the real purpose of wine is community. Sharing your passion for others is what will ultimately take you to the next level. Getting started in wine sometimes means helping others start their own wine career!