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So you would like to be in the wine business?

Published: April 21, 2021, Updated: April 21, 2021

So you would like to be in the wine business?

Does spring fever have your imagination running and racing? Would you love to be able to be involved in the wine industry for a living? I do not blame you one bit. There are so many reasons to consider and enjoy being part of the wine industry. I happen to really enjoy it thanks to my prior experience (retail sales/distribution), my being in an adjunct aspect of the business (wine essentials/accessories) and the people in the industry I have been able to meet (involved in ALL aspects of the industry).

I think many of us realize that most of us have a very limited opportunity to be on the production side (i.e. anything from vineyard manager to winemaker), however, many of us could be involved from sales, marketing or a number of other vantage points. There are some differences working for these entities such as a private winery, corporate wine company, distributor, an importer, however in this blog, I’ll list some from my general perspective.

Wine Sales

Every industry can use quality salespeople. There is constant involvement around wine and if you are good at sales, you can make a good income. Since a number of positions such as distributors are commission based, you also often can work as hard or as long as you want. After all it is results that matter. Keep in mind there are often requirements of your time to be successful such as being out late in evenings to support customer events. The hours can be long and there is a lot of competition and customers can be a challenge, but that’s why they call it “work”.

Wine Marketing

You would be around wine and could have some very interesting experiences. Like any business, depending on the size company you work for your workload may run from specialized to “do it all”. Keep in mind, from an industry standpoint there are many smaller operations versus large. If small, then there is great value in being creative since budgets will be limited, but the door open to ideas. Larger operations have more funding and clout, but sometimes miss the energy of small where necessity is the mother of invention.

Specialty Retail (sometimes called "off premise")

Around an array of wine. Will be likely courted heavily by salespeople wanting you to handle, sell and promote their wines. Tasting is a norm. Decision making can be due to many factors with the net result being the need to be able to generate revenue and have people buy. Hours can be long whether a worker or owner. Working retail can be hard work as you might have to do it all. Stock shelves, order, merchandise and sell.

Restaurant (sometimes called "on premise")

Like retail, get a lot of attention and around a lot of wine. Experience long and usually late hours. Much involvement around wine by the glass (WBTG) and unless you are in a sommelier role, you probably have other responsibilities beside wine. Managing inventory can be fun and tricky. Successful selling WBTG requires multiple skills including wine knowledge and service skills.

Become a Wine Educator

For many this is an ideal wine role since you taste, drink and talk all about wine. Many forms can be taken from being an educator for a winery or wine company or go to the extreme of owning your own wine school. You NEED to know about wine, and it is advantageous to be formally educated, have a great palette and be able to figure out how to monetize your knowledge. Earning post nominals is very helpful for the more serious of educators; however, they take time, effort and expense (great if you can get a company to pay the way)

I know there are many of you who would genuinely enjoy the business; however, there is the proverbial "but"! Important because there is nothing worse than getting into something you think or expect to be great and then for whatever reason, it was not the right fit. The most important thing to remember is that it is a business. Along with it comes business and financial responsibilities.

Here's a Good Lead for Finding Work in the Wine Industry

For some valuable added information, I’d like to recommend this podcast of a friend of mine, Karen Wetzel. She and Christian Oggenfuss, the founder of the Napa Valley Wine Academy, have come up with a new podcast called Wine , Work and Passion. Here’s a link to the inaugural episode of Wine, Work and Passion.

Anyone with a passion should realize that enjoying your passion on your terms is a lot different than working the business on someone else’s. I was fortunate to work in professional sports in what many people would classify as a “dream” job. I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a tremendous amount; however, I also learned when it was over, that I was no longer a professional sports fan. It had become my job and livelihood. I did, however, gain 20 of my weekends back!




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