So, You Want to Get Into the Wine industry?
I welcome back Jim Morris, industry veteran, hospitality pro, and hiring manager for major wineries to help me answer the question I get frequently:
“I love wine, how do I get into the industry?”
We address the three main verticals for entry into the biz: the executive/business side, the production side, and the sales/hospitality side. Then we talk briefly about wine education and wine media. Jim’s first tip is a really essential one:
“No matter what you do, do everything in wine”
From production to shipping, learning it all will make you understand the entire business. And that is essential because wine is one huge, long supply chain!
Here are the show notes:
The Management Side/Business Side: This is the executive side, where you can enter into the industry from another professional job with a set of skills.
- Your skills are likely applicable if you are from a related industry (law, logistics, consumer packaged goods marketing or sales, executive management etc.), but go in with eyes wide open — the regulations in wine are a bit crushing. The wine industry is driven by what it CAN’T do - be prepared for a world of regulation and compliance!
- There are many transferable skills and jobs that could fit if you have an area of expertise on the business side. You will have a learning curve but if you are ok with that it can be a great place.
- On the downside: none of it pays particularly well!
Photo credit: Unsplash
The Production Side: Winemaking, vineyard management, cellar work, including bottling, etc.
- This is a very physically demanding part of the business!
- You don’t have to go to school, but you have to work your way up if you don’t.
- Start small, talk to small winery owners and winemakers about what they do. Network with people, get a feel for what is needed in a winery, and what you can or would do if you worked in a winery. Just get out there and talk to people!
- If you are earnest and serious, and network you will get opportunities to work at wineries —whether it be in the US, Germany, Australia, or Mexico.
- Learn and absorb as much as you can and then make a decision about whether production really what you want to do, and then you have to convince someone to invest in you. Remember to have humility — you are asking someone to invest in you to teach you this craft, it’s important it’s a good fit and you go in understanding you are asking someone to take a chance on you.
- Possible career paths: work harvest as and intern for free, become a paid harvest intern, cellar rat, assistant winemaker, winemaker, or vineyard worker/manager, work in logistics, bottling, etc.
Photo credit: Unsplash
Wine Sales and hospitality – retail and restaurant/ Tasting room employee/ Wine club management
Sales is the single most important job in wine. It is the most valued – without the sales, even great wineries fold. Sales is the most common job in wine and the easiest path to get into the industry. We discuss three or four main ways to get into wine sales and hospitality.
- We frame all of this by saying that sales and hospitality are skills -- hospitality is dealing with the public, we give tips on how to do that well, but if you don’t like dealing with people, these are not jobs for you!
- In sales/hospitality NEVER fake it ‘til you make it, people know when you are wrong and you’re going to get called out on any lies you tell or stuff you make up. Just admit that you are learning – there is a LOT to know!
- If you get into a hospitality or sales job, you are not above doing things they may ask you to do – cleaning dishes and glassware, serving food, setting up events – it’s part of the job.
- All wine positions — tasting room, wine club, hospitality, wine educator for a winery, etc — all are sales positions. If you don’t like selling, this isn’t for you!
We discuss the positions available and the paths they could lead to:
- Retail: Work in a wine shop. To figure out the best one for you, go to tastings at the shop you’d like to work with. See if you jibe and then express interest in working there with time. Possible career paths: Retail - distributor rep, supplier (large winery) rep, importer, shop owner, work at a tasting room in wine country
Photo credit: Unsplash
- Tasting room: Tasting room IS sales and service combined. You must always be mindful that your job is sales of wine club. Boxing wine for shipping, cleaning up after messy guests, setting up tables, talking about the wine
- Possible career paths: Tasting room manager, wine club manager (customer service and marketing), logistics, social media marketing, wine tele-sales, marketing (keeping in mind that it is really hamstrung by regulations!)
- On-premise (restaurants): This is working in a restaurant with a good wine list.
- Possible career paths: Wine buyer for restaurant groups or major retailers, see the paths for retail
Other jobs: We briefly address wine educators, wine writers, and wine influencers too and give some advice for people thinking about those paths
Hopefully this sets you on a good path to success or at least answers the questions of how you could break into the industry if you were interested.
If you have questions, contact Jim on Twitter @sonomawineguy and he’ll get back to you! You never know, he may be hiring in his tasting room or wine club!
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