So, You Want to Work in the Wine Industry

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Question from Susan: What do I need to do if I want to work in the wine industry?

Reply: This is a broad question and the first thing is to figure out is what kind of work you want to do. If you want to work in production, these days, you really should get a degree in viticulture if you want to be a vineyard manager or enology if you want to be a winemaker. Many aspiring winemakers opt for a double major, or at least study in both areas, since it’s really hard to tell where one leaves off and the other begins. Here in the U.S. the best-known programs are offered at University of California at Davis, Fresno State University or Cornell. But there are lots of other options in and outside of the US. Just do a search on the appropriate degree.

If you’re interested in marketing or PR you should study those subjects at any good institution and build your wine knowledge simultaneously. For sales reps the opportunities are wide open even without any schooling in wine. But if you want a sales job that’s really wine oriented and not just an aside to selling beer and Jack Daniels, you’ll need some wine education.

If you want to work in hospitality or to become a wine educator there are lots of options. If you want to shoot for the top, those who want to work in restaurants and hotels or to become wine buyers should begin work on their Master Sommelier diploma. This is an extremely rigorous program with multiple tiers but a Master Sommelier has greater earning potential in hospitality than other credentials.

If you want to write or be a wine educator the most prestigious certification is the Master of Wine. This isn’t a university degree and there are only about 300 Masters of Wine on the planet so prepare yourself to work very hard. This is another credential with high earnings potential. I should say, that the earnings are high by wine industry standards. If your primary goal is to make lots of money, look elsewhere.  

Other good programs? The Culinary Institute of America has an excellent program that culminates with a Certified Wine Professional Credential. The Wine and Spirits Education Trust has a program that helps to prepare you to go for your Master of Wine. The Society of Wine Educators also has a respected credentials program.

And, there are lots of other programs available. Do some searching and I know you’ll find something that’s aligned with your goals. Best of luck to you, Susan! Cheers! 

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