How to start a career in the wine industry

How to start a career in the wine industry

Wine and spirits are ever constant in popularity – from weekend enthusiasts to well-versed connoisseurs, there is no shortage of interested people. But there are also those who want to take their wine appreciation to a new level and bring their passion for wine into their professional life. How can you build a career in the wine industry, then?

A good first step is, of course, completing a wine and spirits education course . While this may not be a prerequisite to every wine industry job, several employers look for formal qualifications in the area, so pursuing a wine and spirits course can definitely boost your chances of snatching a good job opportunity in the wine industry.

What a career in the wine industry looks like

After earning your qualifications, it’s time to consider what kind of career you want in the field. Here are some of the areas you might want to consider:

Restaurants and hospitality: wine jobs in the hospitality field require considerable knowledge of wine and how it can best compliment customers’ dining experience. You would need customer service skills and teamwork skills to work closely with other restaurant staff.
Retail: wine retail jobs are often based in specialised wine shops or stores with a dedicated wine department. As well as the ever-important extensive wine knowledge, interpersonal and customer service skills are key.
Distribution and import: wine distributors and importers are responsible for supplying restaurants, bars and other businesses with a prime selection of wine. Positions in this field require a deep understanding of the wine trade and industry.
Winery: working in a winery can encompass anything from wine production and laboratories to warehouse management and product distribution. Jobs in wineries would likely focus on one specific brand.
Vineyard: This is a good career option for the more outdoorsy types. It focuses on the process of cultivating and selling grapes for wine making.

Top jobs in the wine industry

With so many fields to choose from, it’s no surprise that the wine industry also offers a variety of different jobs. One well-known and coveted position is that of sommelier – an expert responsible for wines in restaurants, bars or other venues. Many sommeliers also work as bar or restaurant managers.

You could also work as a wine sales manager for a winery, for example. Managers are often responsible for a team of sales representatives, planning the team’s sales targets and taking responsibility for their staff. The team would seek to sell a wine portfolio to restaurants, stores, bars and other retail establishments.

Another option is to pursue a career as a winemaker. Winemakers oversee the entire wine making process, from grape harvesting all the way to bottling. The job also involves supervising alterations to the wine’s chemical composition, if necessary, to perfect flavors and aromas.

What are the average salaries in the industry?

As with any field, average salaries in the wine industry vary a lot according to the person’s experience, qualifications, area of expertise and employer. While entry-level positions probably do not offer the best wages in the world, with time, experience and the proper qualifications you can land a job with a good selection of perks and a comfortable salary. For example, according to Wine Jobs Canada, top sommelier jobs can offer wages in the $70-$80k range. Winemakers can pay somewhere between $70k and $120k, and wine sales manager positions can offer between $60k and $120k – however, the most well-paid positions typically require strong academic qualifications and solid, relevant work experience.

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The Toronto School of Management (TSoM) is now offering the WSET Level 2 Award in Wines and Spirits. Taking place over three Saturdays in November 2018, the program is a beginner to intermediate qualification. Attendees will learn how wine is made, explore major grape varieties and key wine-growing regions, consider vineyard and winery factors that influence the style of wines, and several other aspects of the industry. You can find more information about the course here.