What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do. – Bob Dylan
Our mission here at Craft Beverage Jobs is to connect passionate people with unique wine jobs, beer jobs, and other career opportunities in the craft beverage market.
If we had a magic wand we could wave upon the world, we would enforce a rule that people only do work that they want to do – that they only pursue their passions.
Because when you’re doing what you want to do, it rarely feels like work!
Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else. – James M. Barrie
This is no doubt an idealistic point of view, but here’s the good news: the wine industry is booming and there are more opportunities now than ever for those passionate about wine to find a meaningful career in the industry.
For those considering a career in wine, our guide to wine jobs is intended to help you navigate your options.
- What does it take to become a winemaker?
- What types of wine jobs can you get with your marketing background?
- What’s involved in getting a degree in enology and what are your options in terms of higher eduction?
- What are the various certification programs available if you want to become a sommelier?
- and more!
These are all questions asked by people who are looking to enter wine as a career field, and this guide aims to answer as many of these questions as possible.
NOTE: If you’re looking for a wine job, we’ve created a free worksheet to help you stay organized and working towards your goals. Download your FREE Wine Jobs Organizational Worksheet now.
Table of Contents
Types of Wine Jobs
- Jobs in Viticulture & Enology
- Jobs in Sales & Marketing
- Jobs in Hospitality & Education (Direct to Consumer)
- Jobs in General Administration and Operations
List of Resources
- Higher Education in Viticulture & Enology
- Higher Education in Wine Business
- Continuing Education Opportunities
- Certifications in Wine (Sommelier)
- Where to Look for Wine Jobs
- List of Wine Recruiters
- List of LinkedIn Groups to Join
- List of Wine Business Sites & Blogs to Follow
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.
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:
- Winemaker: $103,000
- Vineyard Manager: $90,000
(source: Wine Business Monthly)
Viticulture and enology require 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 who are 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.)
- South Africa
- New Zealand
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 very lucrative and 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.
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)
- Social Media
- Compliance Manager
- Graphic Designer
Note: If you’re looking for a wine job, we’ve created a free worksheet to help you stay organized. Download your FREE Wine Jobs Organizational Worksheet now.
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 / Ecommerce Managers
- Wine Educators
- Tour Guides
- Event 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.
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.
List of Resources
There is an increasing number of degree and graduate degree programs in the field of wine and while the list below is not exhaustive, it represents the better known establishments for obtaining degrees in this field:
- UC Davis (both B.S. & M.S. programs for Viticulture & Enology)
- Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (B.S. Wine & Viticulture)
- Cornell University
- Washington State University
- VESTA – Viticulture & Enology Science and Technology Alliance (NSF funded partnership between Missouri State University and various colleges and vineyards across the US)
- Northwest Wine Academy (Degree tracks for both Winemaking (Enology) and Wine Marketing & Sales)
Most of the degree paths listed above for viticulture and enology also include curriculum geared towards wine business. The following programs below are specific to wine business and do not include viticulture or enology content:
- Wine Business Institute – Sonoma State University (MBA & Executive MBA programs)
- Bordeaux International Wine Institute
These valuable courses and programs offer certificates in various aspects of the wine business:
- WISE Academy (Direct to Consumer sales and marketing training)
- UC Davis (Wine Executive Program)
- UC Davis (Winemaking Certificate Program)
- Sonoma State University (Wine Business Management Certificate)
Interested in being a wine education professional?
Sommeliers are trained professionals who understand wine intimately and who know how to communicate wine effectively to others.
A Sommelier’s career path can take them across the wine spectrum. Historically known as someone to assist in fine-dining, sommeliers now work as winemakers, in distribution, sales, education, and often own their own companies.
The following is a list of certification courses (available in the US) geared towards those who wish to become a certified Sommelier:
- Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET)
- Society of Wine Educators – Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW)
- Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS)
- International Sommelier Guild (ISG)
While we’d love every wine job to be posted and available for you on Craft Beverage Jobs, we are not the only place you should be looking when starting your job search. Below is a list of various online resources where you could begin your search:
Below are a few Recruiters who specialize in wine industry placements. Many of the opportunities these recruiters are hired to fill are specialized and high-level wine industry positions. Regardless of where you are in your wine career, it’s always great to connect with a recruiter, tell them your goals, and share your resume!
Getting a job in any field is part opportunity, part experience, and definitely part networking!
The more connected you are to a potential employer, the better your changes of standing out from the pack of other qualified candidates. LinkedIn is a great place to network you and your professional skills online, and joining relevant groups is not only a great way to keep up with wine news and opportunities, but is a great place to meet people who can help you get that dream job in wine. Here are a few groups you should join if not a member of already:
- Craft Beverage Jobs
- Beer Wine Spirits Network
- WINE – Wine Industry Networking Executives
- Wine and Spirits Job Opportunities
- Wine and Spirits Professionals
- Wine Business Network
RSS may be dead (or nearly dead), but if you still use it, these are great sites to monitor:
- Wine Industry News
- Wine Industry Insight
- Wine & Vines
- Fermentation – The Daily Wine Blog
- 2014 Silicon Valley Bank Wine Report (Annual)
** note ** this post will be treated like a living document. Edited and added to as-needed. Something crucial that we missed in this post? Leave a comment for us below in order for it to be considered.
photo credits: derekGavey, alexbrn, JAS_photo, gfairchild, nimdok
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