So you want a career in wine? There are few paths more enticing than working in wine. The possibilities in the industry and the scope are wide: from working in retail, to doing wholesale, to being a representative on the road, to being a sommelier or becoming a wine buyer on the long term. However, the road to get there can be rocky and the competition is fierce. Rest assured: our wine specialist, Siofra O’Brien in Birmingham, reveals her 9 tips to make it in wine.
#1 Receive formal training
Formal training is the basis where it all starts. There are two ways to receive formal training in the industry: if you work on the retail side, it is best to do your WSAT courses and exams. WSAT is a worldwide recognised international brand and highly regarded in the wine industry. If you work on the restaurant side, you can invest in training as a sommelier.
#2 Go to tastings
Go to as many tastings as you can to develop your wine knowledge and taste. The UK has an amazing market for wines and you have a varied range of wines available to you from all over the world, so get out there.
#3 Visit wineries
Wineries are always looking for people to help with grape picking and you can learn a lot from that: it’s where you start to see how wine ends up in a bottle and become aware of the hard work and costs that go into it. There are great wineries abroad, but also amazing ones in England. Harvey Nichols as a company also works with amazing vineyards, where you would be able to gain first-hand experience.
#4 Be independent
You have to be willing to do a lot on your own and find things out for yourself. It all comes down to your own input, but if you’re willing to educate yourself you can go far.
#5 Look for vacancies in the right places
Both WSAT and ‘Wine Jobs England’ list vacancies in the wine industry on their website. There are also two trade magazines, called Harper’s magazine and Drinks Business, who advertise jobs online. It also helps to just knock on doors and send your CV out there. There are doors to be opened, if you go after them.
#6 Learn a language
Speaking a second language, such as French, Italian and Spanish, really helps to progress in wine. So start educating yourself!
#7 Do your homework
Do your homework on the company you are applying with. Look into their portfolio and the types of wine brands they sell. Are these multinational brands or small brands? See if you can find out where they are selling in the industry and what companies they are related to. Do your research.
#8 Be open-minded
You have to be open-minded about wine and leave your personal taste and likes and dislikes aside. It’s not about personal taste, but about looking for consistency and quality and understanding the product that you are selling. You have to get out of your own mind and into the mindset of the wine provider and understand why it was created.}
#9 Look after your tongue, palette and nose
Anybody who works in the industry should look after their tongue, palette and nose – be very kind to them because this is what your tasting abilities are dependent upon. Also make sure to never wear aftershave of perfume, because this hinders you from tasting properly.
In the end, growing a career in the wine industry is a long road and you have to be able to work hard for it, but it will be very rewarding in the end. Wines are like a passport to the world from your very own living room, and will bring you on a journey across the world. Working in wine is never the same as no two vintages are every the same. You are constantly being kept on your toes: next year could be a very different animal in the glass!