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How to Get Started in the Wine Industry!

Love drinking wine? Why not make a career out of it?!

Have you ever wondered, after your fourth glass of pinot, what it would take to work in the wine industry?

Well look no further, I'll tell you some of the things you need to do to make a successful career which revolves around wine

First things first, the wine industry is vast and full of job opportunities. What you would need to think about is: WHAT SORT OF JOB ARE YOU LOOKING FOR? There's so much to choose from, would you like to make wine, sell and/or buy wine, serve wine, educate about wine or even write about wine.

No matter what type of job you're looking for, what you need to do is start with educating yourself a bit about wine.

You can read up on it yourself at home or better yet, start with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) classes. These classes range from level one to four, with level one intended for people who may not ever have tasted wine in their life and gives a thorough understanding of how wine is made and what makes certain wines taste the way they do. These classes also teach you how to systematically approach tasting wine, a skill which is essential in any job which involves wine. 

The classes are great because not only do they teach you about wine and wine-making, they also provide wine for you to taste and compare.

Now, on to the actual jobs involving wine.

1. Working at a Vineyard

Working at a vineyard is a highly romanticized career—who doesn't want to be part of the process of making this delicious grape juice for adults? But it's hard work, involves a lot of heavy lifting, backbreaking work picking the grapes (If hand-picked) and a lot of cleaning and sanitizing, but tasting the product at the end of the day is a huge reward in itself.

Taking the first steps toward a vineyard career is volunteering for the harvest season at a vineyard, this is more often than not an unpaid position, though many vineyards offer room and board in lieu of payment. After volunteering at a vineyard, you can approach the winemakers and ask if you could join on as an apprentice winemaker, and learn the process that happens after the grapes are picked. If you're doing this in Europe then learning the local language is a huge plus.

If they accept you as an apprentice winemaker then congratulations! You have now started your career as a winemaker.

2. Working Retail

Now, retail jobs are probably not the most sought after when it comes to a career in wine, but depending on the store, management and customer base, it can be a well paid, highly rewarding job, with stores often sponsoring further wine education for the employee and lots of opportunities to taste different types of wine. It's also incredibly satisfying to have a customer return and compliment the wine you advised them to buy.

This type of work requires a good understanding of grape varieties and appellations in different wine regions so a good wine education is essential.

In London, where I live, most independent and chain wine retail stores require the employee to have finished at least level two in the WSET school, sometimes even level three. So having that under your belt will most certainly be a defining factor in the application process. It doesn't hurt to have previous retail experience either.

3. Wine Broker

Being a wine broker is no joke, this is a hard, often commission based job with long hours and a lot of people saying no to you. But it's worth it if you manage to snag clients and build relationships with them.

Wine brokers are often independent contractors who work with smaller vineyards or wholesalers who can't afford in house marketing.

This is primarily a salesman job, where you work with suppliers representing their wine brands and selling them to retail stores, restaurants and bars. There are also fine wine brokers who work with individual clients with cellars, selling premium fine wines for private collections.

Starting out in this industry is easier than most people think, because often, larger wine brokerage companies hire people with no sales experience on as trainee wine brokers. The company teaches you the necessary skills to become a successful broker, they usually also provide wine education although it's a good idea to finish some WSET classes before applying.

This work requires good communication and relationship skills, with a good education on wines (at least the ones you're selling).

This is a fantastic career for people who enjoy building relationships with clients, tasting a lot of wine and working independently.

4. Serving Wine

Serving wine is a thing you do at a lot of hospitality jobs, as a waiter or a bartender but serving wine exclusively is a viable career.

Have you ever been to a fine dining restaurant, with a ridiculously big wine list and had your drink order taken by someone who seems to just work around the wine?

That person is called a Sommelier.

Somms, as they are known in the industry, are professional wine waiters that specialise in all things regarding wine in a restaurant. They create the wine list, take care of the restaurants wine cellar, help you pair your food with a specific wine or pair wines with a multi course tasting menus.

Most importantly, they serve you your wine.

The best way to become a sommelier is to gain some experience in a restaurant that has a sommelier working there, work the floor and ask to become a commis sommelier. This is a junior role where the head sommelier will mentor you into becoming a knowledgeable and professional somm.

This means polishing a LOT of wine glasses and getting to know the wine list intimately. After working as a sommelier for some time and gaining an extensive knowledge about wine, why not go through the court of master sommeliers and become a certified sommelier.

Being a certified sommelier is highly prestigious role and is recognized by fine dining restaurants all over, though it is a gruelling education to go through and requires a deep understanding of wines from all over the world.

To finish up there are many more career opportunities in wine, but these are the most easily accessible for someone who has interest in the wine industry and is just starting out.

Please check out the link above to find WSET classes near you, this is the best source of education in wine, from beginner to advanced levels.

If wine is your passion, why not be surrounded by your passion at all times.

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