POST BY HANNAH CROSSLEY
So you want to work in wine? Who could blame you?
This industry is constantly growing, changing and reinventing itself. Let’s face it; wine as a beverage choice is going nowhere, just the way we buy wine is constantly evolving and we industry elves need to adapt with it in order to make a living.
Like wine, there are different jobs for different palates – in as much as your personality and style could determine which area of the wine industry would be best suited to you. I am generalising a little when I say that you could find your niche by understanding whether you are an introvert or extrovert – and whether you want to live in the country or the city.
I can list a few jobs I believe would be more ideal for the introvert, which tend to be those people who prefer their own company, like working at their own pace or as part of a small team. These are - winemaker, oenologist, cellar door manager/worker and maybe importer and blogger are options to name just a few.
Regarding the vineyard and winery jobs these tend to only be stressful at certain times of the year, apart from vintage and the risk of bad weather, a winemaker’s job is consistent and almost predictable. It’s a farming job so as you would care for your livestock, you’re caring for a beautiful bottle of wine that makes its way into the world to make us happy.
Importers and bloggers mostly work alone, and if you have a spare $100,000 then get travelling the world now and find yourself some amazing wines. Or just talk about wine from the comfort of your desk and you may find, in time, that same wine coming to your door instead! (You can see the route I have taken!)
For the extroverts among us there is a confidence that is required to sell wine. You are either preaching to the converted or asking someone to try an expressive Gewurztraminer when they have not stepped beyond a standard Pinot Grigio.
To sell wine there are these few options – Sommelier, distributor, sales rep, or wine retail. Sommeliers, for one, are some immensely dedicated people and you can always tell a good one by their wine list. If you prefer working till all hours of the morning then you will love this job, and I hope for your sake you also love your co-workers as they are now your family, your friends, your everything! Also say goodbye to weekends.
In comparison, and the reason why I bring you here today, you can always work in a wine shop. I had been working in restaurants for about 10 years and I found myself at risk of going prematurely grey and having frown lines that even Botox could not fix. To my irritation, working as a Sommelier was no longer an option for me.
But for over 2 years now I have been working in wine shops and I love it as the hours are more manageable and stress doesn’t seem to be an issue. Along with staff discounts and samples from wine reps you are always tasting. My palate has improved tenfold over these last two years and that comes down to the wines I have been exposed to daily from around the world and hence improving my knowledge.
Working at The Winery has taught me more about New Zealand wines than any book could because the Enomatic Wine Serving System creates a tasting style that is immersive and comparable. You are, for example, able to taste 8 Sauvignon Blanc's from different regions and with that you can discover differences in soils and climate and even winemaker styles. If one doesn’t suit you, who’s to say the next one wouldn’t be a perfect fit.
What do you need to do to work in wine?
Attend wine education classes. WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) is trusted around the world and can be that elevating factor that will get you the job. There are beginner’s courses and you could build up to becoming a Master of Wine.
Taste as much wine as you can…within reason, and not all at once! (If you could, I’m am not only envious of your bank account but your liver’s resilience).
Visit wine regions! This is the best experience and you get to see where it all comes from. If you are on holiday and you need something to do for the day head out to the nearest wineries, you will not regret it. A valuable time to go is September/October in the northern hemisphere, and March/April in the southern. This is about the time of vintage and if you are lucky you could get a tour of the winery and see the whole process up close.
Also buy some good dental hygiene products – wine really does a number on your teeth.
And buy a decent gym pass - I don’t think I need to tell you why!
As I work with some pretty awesome people at The Winery who all know a great deal about wine I have asked them all which is their favourite wine in the shop and why. Happy drinking!