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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Thinking About That Dream Job in the Wine Biz?

  "What if your hobby became your job?" is the aspiration of many. The nice thing about the wine business is you can actually make a living on most of the jobs. With the economy humming along now it might be a good time to think about the career change as there are jobs aplenty.

  First, let's be real and be clear that you won't be spending your days frolicking in a sunny vineyard with a glass of Napa Chardonnay. Work is still work. Of course, being around wine does have some nice benefits as it's a luxury good that makes people happy.

  The jobs usually require a bit of a scientific background, basic business skills, or sales and marketing ability. We'll divide it into two categories; one where you can probably get a job without moving and the other where you'll have to be in a grape growing region.

Throughout the Country

Retailer
  This is selling wine to consumers usually in a wine shop or restaurant. It requires good knowledge of the wines the establishment carries.

Distributor
  This is selling wines to  the retailers. You are often traveling and should have good people and negotiating skills. Some sort of sales background is probably required for most jobs. It can be a bit cutthroat.

In Wine Grape Growing Areas

Harvest Intern
  Wineries need to staff up significantly for the autumn grape harvest (there is a northern hemisphere and a southern hemisphere harvest season). This is no doubt the best way to start your learning process about making wine. It's also the hardest. You want to be young and fit. There will be long hours of sometimes tedious work, but in the end you have helped turn grapes into wine! This is an entry level job.

Wine Production
  This is the process of following the grapes from the vineyard to the bottle. There's a lot of cleaning; there might be lab work. This is where the wine gets made. This can be an entry level job though if you've worked as a harvest intern first that will help a lot.

Winery Business Functions
  A winery is a business, like any other, and needs IT, accounting, marketing, and leadership.

  Note there are wine conglomerates (Constellation Brands, Treasury Wine Estates, etc.) that have business offices in non-grape growing regions.

Hospitality
  The Tasting Room is the winery's interface with its direct-to-consumer customers. You want to like people and be able to sell them wine and wine club memberships. Not the best paying job in the industry, but the most fun, and the easiest to find part-time work in case you're not quite ready to give up your real job. This is a good place to start if you're not interested in the production side (see Harvest Intern above). Some do this job by being great at sales, others with good wine knowledge, but some of both is needed (and either can be learned). The busy season is May through October so spring is the best time to look for work.

  The Wine Club requires phone, writing, and computer skills. Wine club membership is key to most wineries and wine club managers are expected to find ways to attract new members and to retain existing ones.

  Many wineries host events from weddings to showing their distributors a good time.

  Any of these winery hospitality jobs can be entry level.

Vineyard Worker
  This is not your dream job. I once talked with a guy that looked to be your typical middle-aged office worker. Said he was going to quit his job, move to California, and work in the vineyards. I thought I did a decent job of making him think about it again. Why? This would be the hardest job you've ever had. You must be in top physical condition and not mind the hours, the heat, and the cold.