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From the Vineyard to Your Glass - A Look at Careers in the Wine Industry

by Monica Bennion on August 08, 2016

IMG_7007.CR2.jpgWe’ve all had it, that daydream that comes while sipping a glass of good wine on the patio at sunset.  It starts off by selling everything you own to buy a small piece of prime property to plant grapevines, from which you will harvest juicy grapes to smash, ferment and bottle into delicious wine to be enjoyed by the masses.  You will travel the world, dine at the finest restaurants, rub elbows with the bigwigs in the wine world, and become a legend of rock star proportions.  Sounds like the perfect life!  *POOF*

If our shared daydream had a good chance at reality, we’d all be living that life!  Fact is, it takes a lot of hard work to get those juicy little grapes into that wine glass of yours.  Above that, it takes a lot of good people, each with a different skill set, to make it all happen.  If you’re exploring the idea of getting into the wine industry, or know someone who is, think outside the barrel and take a closer look at the variety and nearly endless career opportunities in the wine industry.

PRE-PRODUCTION

Grower & Vineyard Management
Education:  If you fancy yourself as having a green thumb and enjoy agriculture and being outdoors, an education and career in “viticulture” may be for you.  Viticulture is the science, production and study of grapes and deals with the series of events that occur in the vineyard. It may not be the most glamorous job in the wine industry, but it is probably one of the most important.

General Duties:  Monitoring and controlling pests and diseases, fertilizing, irrigation, canopy management, monitoring fruit development, deciding when to harvest, and vine pruning in the winter months.

Average Salary:  $50k - $85k

Terri_in_the_Vineyard.jpg(Grower, Terri Harvey in Vineyard 1869)

Vineyard & Winery Consultant
Education:  Similar to that of vineyard management.  A degree in viticulture and/or enology is a great place to start.  Beyond that, extensive knowledge and understanding of the entire wine industry is crucial.  Experience in the field, cellar and lab are also necessary.

General Duties:  Consultants can offer a variety of services or choose to specialize.  Areas of consulting include property development, winery design, equipment purchases, permits and regulations, marketing and personnel and good vineyard practices.

Average Salary:  $30k - $100k.  The wide gap in salary reflects experience as well as areas of specialty.

PRODUCTION

Winemaker
Education:  A degree in enology (also referred to as oenology) is the education path you’ll want to take to be a winemaker.  Winemakers are encouraged to also study viticulture, even though they may not grow or maintain vineyards, the study of viticulture complements enology.  Winemakers may begin their journey as a cellar rat and work their way up to winemaker.  Many continue on to develop their own brands and wineries.  A strong understanding and grasp of chemistry, biology and agriculture is a must.

General Duties:  Everything!  The winemaker is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the wine making process, from harvest to bottling.  This includes crushing, fermentation, aging, and blending.  If a winemaker has their own facility and/or brand, duties would include equipment maintenance (barrels, pumps, tanks, storage, etc.), facility maintenance, personnel management, and marketing.

Average Salary:  $75k - $125k

Winemakers.jpg(Winemaker, Scott Harvey & Assistant Winemakers Mollie and Nick)

Assistant Winemaker and/or Cellar Master
Education:  This Assistant Winemaker and/or Cellar Master is the right hand of the winemaker.  An education in enology and/or viticulture is essential for this career.  In addition to education, experience in the vineyard as well as wine production is crucial.  Most Assistant Winemakers and Cellar Masters begin their career as a “cellar rat”.

General Duties:  In essence, the Assistant Winemaker or Cellar Master does pretty much everything the winemaker does, short of making the final decisions.  They are responsible for ordering and maintaining equipment and supplies as well as hiring and managing “cellar rats”.

Average Salary:  $55k - $80k

WINERY & TASTING ROOM

Tasting Room Manager
Education:  While a formal education may not be required, a degree in Business Management and/or Sales and Marketing will help to further your career, and may be a condition of employment for some wineries.  Many Tasting Room Managers obtain a certificate from a reputable vocational program.  Often times, Tasting Room Associates are promoted to the Tasting Room Manager position, depending on experience and qualifications.

General Duties:  A Tasting Room Manager wears many different hats, some at the same time.  Job duties include creating a welcoming and inviting atmosphere for visitors, educating customers about the winery, winemaker and wines, and hiring, managing and educating staff.  Duties behind the scenes may include budgeting, accounting/bookkeeping, sales statistics, inventory management, ordering of equipment and supplies and coordinating tasting room events.  The Tasting Room Manager works closely with Marketing and the Wine Club Coordinator.

Average Salary:  $30k - $80k

Scott_Harvey_Tasting_Room_Staff.jpg(Tasting Room Manager, Jack Gorman and Tasting Room Associates Muffin & Kelsey)

Wine Club Coordinator
Education:  A formal education may not be required, but similar to that of a Tasting Room Manager, a degree in Business Management and/or Sales and Marketing may be a condition of employment for some wineries.  At smaller, family owned wineries, a Wine Club Coordinator may be promoted from within.

General Duties:  The job of a Wine Club Coordinator is also one of variety and may require an understanding in everything from accounting to writing.  Not only does the Wine Club Coordinator maintain relationships with current wine club members, they are responsible for recruiting new club members and building rapport.  Wine Club Coordinators are responsible for managing and maintaining member and customer databases, selecting wines for release and scheduling wine club releases, assisting in the coordination of wine club events, including invitations, email blasts and ticket sales, and working closely with the Tasting Room Manager and Marketing Department.

Average Salary:  $30k - $70k

Monica_at_Wine_Club_Event.jpg
(Wine Club Coordinator, Monica Bennion setting up for a wine club event)

BEHIND THE SCENES

Office Management
Education:  Most wineries will require, at minimum, a vocational certificate, usually in Business Management.  Advanced degrees in accounting, finance and business management are favorable.

General Duties:  This is another job that will often times require a wardrobe change multiple times a day.  The Office Manager is the backbone of the business, and without a competent one, the business may quickly crumble.  Office Managers at smaller, family-owned wineries may be responsible for accounting and bookkeeping, records management, regulatory compliance, shipping compliance, human resources and payroll, among other things.  At larger facilities, these duties may be divided into different jobs.

Average Salary:  $30k - $75k 

Picture_of_Carla.jpg(Office Manager, Carla Clift)

In House Marketing & E-Commerce
Education:  An education in Sales & Marketing, as well as some advanced computer skills, may be required to fill this position.  Experience with quantifying trends and statistics is highly desirable, as is knowledge and understanding of database management.  Continuing education on the latest industry practices may be necessary.

General Duties:  Create and distribute marketing materials, including brochures, flyers, newsletters, and ads.  This includes printed material as well as digital material.  Manage and maintain the products available for sale online and create sales promotions.  Manage and maintain the email subscriber list and work with management to schedule promotions and press releases.   Quantify results from marketing campaigns.  In larger wineries, these duties may be divided into different jobs.

Average Salary:  $30k to $80k

Jana-w-glass-285x300.jpg(Director of  Sales & Marketing, Jana Harvey)

DISTRIBUTION

Distributor
Education:  A certificate or Associate’s degree in Sales may be required, and a Bachelor’s degree is preferred.  Experience in the wine industry is necessary.

General Duties:  A distributor serves as the middle man between the wineries and their ultimate destination.  That could be a restaurant, grocery store, wine boutique, hotel or bar.  Distributors are also tasked with hiring sales people as well as staying informed about any state or federal regulations.

Average Salary:  $40k - $150K (depending on experience and accounts)

Distributor_Linda_OBrien.jpg
(Distributor, Linda O'Brien)

Sales Representative
Education:  While a certificate or Associate’s degree in Sales can get you started, a Bachelor’s degree is preferred.  Experience in the wine industry is necessary.

General Duties:  A sales representative is usually employed by a distributor or distribution company.  Duties may include traveling and calling on restaurants, wine shops and other prospective clients to present and sample your portfolio.  Sales reps work with distributors and wineries, placing orders and staying abreast of the newest products.

Average Salary:  $30k - $150K (depending on experience, accounts and commissions)

 

IN CLOSING
The above ten careers are just a small sample of the possibilities in the wine industry.  If you search WineJobs.com, you’ll see there are endless job listings looking to fill positions in hospitality, harvest internships, events coordination, IT and website engineering, quality control, wine educators, etc. etc.  A majority of these listings are for positions within California, but as the wine industry continues to expand, there are jobs that may take you to the Midwest or East Coast or even overseas to Japan, China or Australia.

SHW_Crew.jpg(The Scott Harvey Wines Team)

While each of these jobs requires different sets of skills, there is one common link among them all.  Each and every person who works in any aspect of the wine industry has a true appreciation and passion for wine and all it has to offer.

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References:
Wine Enthusiast – www.winemag.com/2001/05/01/careers-in-wine

Wine Folly - winefolly.com/update/wine-jobs-an-overview-of-careers-salaries/

Payscale – www.payscale.com

Inside Jobs – www.insidejobs.com/careers

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