Careers in Winemaking: Roles to Explore
The wine industry is broad and multifaceted, encompassing many different roles. It’s helpful to have a holistic understanding of what’s available—and what skills you’ll need—before getting your feet wet. Consider your interests. For example, do you want to be walking the vineyards, getting your hands dirty and seeing the grapes through to the final product? Do you see yourself in the winery making stylistic decisions? Or do you want to be involved in the industry in a different way? There are plenty of winemaking jobs you can get aside from being a winemaker.
Pat Howe, lead instructor of UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education's Winemaking Certificate Program, often compares the wine industry to a major league baseball team. Fans see only the players and coaches on the field. But to make the team function, many other roles—trainers, groundskeepers, managers, scorekeepers, umpires and many more—work behind the scenes. “The wine industry also has its big-name sluggers and pitchers who get the coverage and show up in the news,” Howe says. “But just like in baseball, there is a whole range of careers in the wine business – every one of them vital.”
Wine Terms to Know
Before you start exploring a career in the wine industry, you should first have a basic understanding of industry terms as they relate to different roles and areas of expertise.
- Winemaker: Oversees all aspects of the winemaking process, from grapes to bottle
- Vintner: Can sometimes be used interchangeably with the term winemaker, but generally refers to someone with a winery or vineyard and is involved in the production and sale of wine
- Enologist: Specializes in the science of winemaking, understanding the fermentation, microbiology and chemical processes involved
- Viticulturist: Responsible for the health of the vineyard, managing the grapevines, and cultivation and harvesting of grapes
- Sommelier: Wine experts, often working in restaurants, specializing in the selection of wine and food pairings
Jobs in Viticulture
If you like being outdoors and working with your hands, you may want to explore a career in vineyard operations. Many roles involve working directly with the vines, including vineyard and soil management, irrigation, pest and disease control, pruning, trellising and harvesting. Depending on the task, work can be quite manual and seasonal. Other jobs that require less manual labor can include record keeping and inventory, grower relations and government compliance.
Jobs in Winery Operations
There’s a variety of roles to consider in wine production. If you’re interested in the science of winemaking or the creativity behind various wine styles, then you may want to explore winemaker and enologist roles. There is also a long list of other opportunities in winery operations, including cellar crew, lab technician, quality control tech, sustainable development specialist, bottling line worker and sanitation operator.
Jobs in Wine Marketing and Sales
Wine doesn’t sell itself and a big part of the industry is getting wine into the hands of consumers. There’s a number of jobs on the creative side of things, such as branding, packaging, promotions and publicity, as well as other roles in sales, pricing, distribution and retail merchandising.
Jobs in Hospitality
If you like working with people and sharing your knowledge and passion for wine, then a job in winery hospitality may be for you. These can range from roles at the winery, such as tasting room lead, tour guide, special events manager, wine club representative and wine educator to a job as a sommelier.
Jobs in Support Industries
The wine industry requires a lot of support, and companies supporting the industry are an integral part of the business. Many people with interest and training find these sales and support roles rewarding, allowing for travel and exposure to many varied facilities. Equipment, microbes, additives and analytical services are just some of the possible support industries.
There are countless administrative and other roles to consider in the wine industry, such as positions in HR, facilities, maintenance and warehousing. If you want to combine a career in wine with your interest in finance and accounting or web development, there’s a job in winemaking for you.
Before You Get Started
Serious about a career in wine production?
Our online Winemaking Certificate Program can be completed in as little as 18 months and provides the scientific and technical framework for successful winemaking. Learn more
Keep in mind that depending on the type of career you want to pursue in winemaking, the skills and knowledge required can vary greatly. Roles in viticulture and enology may require advanced degrees and hands-on experience, even internships. And salaries will be dependent on your region, the size of the winery and the type of wine produced. With more than 1,000 active job postings, the Wine Business Monthly’s Wine Jobs listing is a good place to see what types of wine roles are available. “Think about how you would like to spend a typical work day, and then find an internship or temporary job where you can either do this work or work with people who do,” advises Howe.