Since I first wrote this post two years ago, the principles of getting a job in wine haven't really changed. But because that article has become one of the most popular on my blog, I wanted to provide an revised version. What follows are my top tips for how to get a job in the wine industry right now, and an updated resources section.
This advice isn't the only way to get a job in the wine trade, but it covers the most common experiences that most people have in the UK. (If you want to read about how I did it, see here.)
- Start at the bottom of the ladder. This could apply to any career, of course, but for the UK wine industry it means working in retail, B2B sales or hospitality. (Increasingly, there is the option to work in production too - although these jobs tend to require specific training and are generally over-subscribed). Entry-level jobs are rarely glamorous and never well paid, but they will get you crucial experience - and contacts - in the business. There's no substitute for learning the basics the hard way.
- Learn about wine. Many people are attracted to the wine industry because they already love wine, but learning about it to a professional standard requires serious commitment. Taking WSET courses is virtually a prerequisite, but you should also be reading books, magazines and websites as well as tasting as much as possible. If that sounds like a hardship, the wine industry probably isn't for you!
- Be flexible. Developing a career in wine can require relocations, unsociable hours and low wages. It's usually easier to do this relatively early in your career, but either way, you need to be prepared to make sacrifices and adapt to whatever opportunities come your way.
- Go where the money is. Rightly or wrongly, there will always be more opportunities to work in wine (especially fine wine) wherever disposable income is highest. For the UK, that means London and a few other large cities.
- Keep the faith! The wine trade is competitive and oversubscribed. Having a successful career requires commitment and longevity. It isn't always easy, but the perks - the travel, the people, and most of all, loads of delicious wine - are usually enough to convince most of us that it's a great industry to work in. So good luck!
WINE TRADE JOB ADVERTS
These sites are the main UK-based wine jobs boards and are all reputable and trustworthy sources.
- Master of Wine James Cluer wrote this blog about getting into the wine industry in 2017
- This 2016 post from Craft Beverage Jobs is particular relevant to woking in the US wine industry
- The WSET careers path page contains descriptions of 19 important roles in the wine industry. There's also a series of blogs going in to more details about specific wine jobs.
- Wine Folly have a post from 2015 giving the US perspective on wine careers, including salary expectations
- This 2008 article from The Independent has useful guidelines to working with wine
- Decanter wrote this article in 2003 which is still relevant, if out of date