Great questions. I’m dropping you an article here that covers possible wine jobs in your future. Once you are student at the school, and we can sit down for an hour or so, i’ll be happy to point you in the right direction for your particular skill set.
Types of Wine Jobs
On a macro level, there are three categories under which your career in wine could fall under:
working in off/on premise establishments (i.e. at wine shops and restaurants)
working for a distributor
working at a winery and/or vineyard
On a more micro level, there is a different set of categories under which your career in wine could fall under:
Production (Viticulture & Enology)
Sales & Marketing
Hospitality & Education (Direct to Consumer)
General Administration & Operations
This guide is going to focus on a cross-section of career opportunities as they pertain to working directly with a winery and the production of wine. As with any business, the number of opportunities available at any given winery will largely be a direct result of the winery’s size and production level. Many small wineries may be completely owner-operated or have just a few key positions for which they hire for.
Jobs in Viticulture & Enology
wine jobs: a comprehensive guide to careers in wineIf you love to be outdoors and are interested in agriculture, then a career in viticulture may be the type of wine job that would interest you. Viticulture is the science around the growing of grapes and work in the vineyard. From deciding what grape varieties to plant, to pest management, to irrigation, and to deciding when is the best time to harvest the grapes, there are many aspects to this field of study and an assortment of career paths one could take.
An advanced degree is generally required by someone who wants to pursue work as a viticulturist, which usually leads to positions like:
Vineyard Manager (in charge of a single vineyard)
Director of Viticulture (oversees multiple vineyard locations)
Enology (also often spelled Oenology) is the science of wine production or winemaking. Someone who studies enology will understand the methods and techniques of making wine, will understand fermentation processes, and will have a good grasp of wine microbiology. Like viticulture, an advanced degree is generally required by someone who wants to pursue work as an Enologist or Winemaker.
There is inherent crossover between viticulture and enology and most higher education opportunities combine the two into one academic discipline. In addition, many of the career opportunities in the wine industry are with smaller wine producers so more often than not, the winemaker may also be the resident viticulturist.
Like all jobs in wine, there are many factors that go into what one can expect in terms of a salary. For reference, here are several average salaries for two sought after roles:
Vineyard Manager: $90,000
(source: Wine Business Monthly)
Viticulture and enology requires a lot of eduction and hands-on training, and harvest internships offer both. Internships also are a great way for someone to test out the industry to see if this is something that they want to pursue. It is almost a given that the labor needs at a winery increase during harvest season so internships are readily available for those interested.
Working in grape and wine production is usually accompanied by many long hours and lots of manual labor, and this is especially true in harvest months. Harvest season at a winery is not for the faint of heart, and having a few internships under your belt is often a requirement by employers who may be considering hiring you on full-time in a larger role.
Lastly, harvest internships are a great opportunity for someone interested in traveling and seeing different parts of the world. Think of any of the major wine regions around the globe and there will be harvest internship opportunities there:
North America (California, Oregon, Washington, New York, Texas, and British Columbia, etc.)
South America (Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay, etc.)
Europe (France, Italy, Spain, Austria, and Greece, etc.)
Jobs in Sales & Marketing
wine jobs: a comprehensive guide to careers in wineOne of the outcomes of the repeal of prohibition was the establishment of what is called the “Three-tier System”. In an effort to limit access and control the distribution of alcohol, the three-tier system was set up so that a winery is required to use a distributor to get their product out to the market.
With a few exceptions, a winery (or brewery, distiller, or importer) is required to have a distributor in order to sell to retailers and restaurants and there are many restrictions on selling directly to the public.
If you work in sales for a specific winery, you may be located in a region or territory where you work primarily with your counterpart at a partner distributor. You may go into the market and pitch your product to various potential accounts, but you work through your distributor to fulfill orders and manage your market.
Working in wine sales can be hugely rewarding, but it can also be grueling and tough. There are over 8,000 wineries in operation in the United States alone and nearly a countless number of individual wines from various vintages available on the market at any one time. If you are in charge of selling a specific wine or a specific portfolio of wine, you are constantly up against a lot of competition and many other quality wines.
Doing well, however, can mean a nice financial return. One of the top paying positions within the wine industry are those who do well at sales for premium brands. Per Wine Business Monthly, the average salary for a Vice President of Sales is $170,000 per year.
The size of the winery will ultimately determine how many levels of sales personnel are employed. In general, a winery with any level of regional or national distribution will have someone working specifically in the function of sales (unless they are very small where the winemaker and/or owner may take on this role).
Wineries also have marketing needs. From packaging to promotional materials, the function of marketing wine also comes with its own set of complexities. Alcohol is a regulated product in the United States so there are many regulations a winery must follow in order to be compliant.
Again, depending on the size of the winery, there may be one person in charge of all winery marketing, or there could be specific positions for each of the following:
Director of Marketing
Direct-to-consumer Marketing Manager (tasting room and wine club specific)
Jobs in Hospitality & Education (Direct to Consumer)
wine jobs: a comprehensive guide to careers in wineIf you work in the wine industry the term “Direct to Consumer” is something to become familiar with. Because of the rules and regulations that established the “three-tier stystem” there are only a limited number of opportunities to sell their wine directly to the end consumer. In general, these opportunities are:
in a tasting room
through a wine club
via a winery website
Wine is all about the experience and about its story. In order to truly understand a wine, it’s best to also understand what it is, where it comes from, and who made it. The enjoyment of wine is highly personal and highly visceral, and wine consumers tend to be very loyal to brands whom they feel they’ve connected with. It’s no surprise then that wineries tend to put a lot of resources towards educating their consumers and visitors and eliciting a memorable experience.
Wineries connect with their consumers via their tasting rooms and via their wine club. Those that work in these “direct to consumer” roles end up being the story tellers for the winery and ambassadors of the brand.
Tasting Room Hosts/Associates
Tasting Room Managers
Wine Club / Ecomm Managers
Positions can range from entry to mid-level in terms of salary. Per Wine Business Monthly the average salary for tasting room staff worker is $28,000 annually while a Tasting Room or Wine Club manager averages $55,000.
Jobs in General Administration and Operations
wine jobs: a comprehensive guide to careers in wineAs with any business, a winery operates best with a solid business plan, good management, and accurate financial forecasting.
If a winery is large enough to have a General Manager at the helm, that person often has a unique mixture of experience that makes him or her specifically qualified to run the winery business. Many winery general managers have at least some winemaking experience, and often have a MBA as a strong business acumen is necessary.
Budgeting a winery business is a complex ordeal that begins as early in the process as when the raw land is purchased for a vineyard site. The cultivation of grapes is a finicky process; crop yields vary, which affects costs, and many variables exist within the winemaking process as well. Add to this the financial logistics of the three-tier system and you have an industry where there is always a need for a pool of qualified candidates in finance.
There is also the demand for good operations professionals within the wine business. Many wineries with their own production facilities have their own bottling lines that need management and maintenance, shipping and receiving departments, and cellar crews.
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