Basic Knowledge For Wine Industry Job Seekers

0728classroom There is something exhilerating about standing up in front of a classroom filled with students and leading a discussion. I had forgotten about this thrill before having the opportunity to guest lecture at a UCLA Extension class on The Business of Wine Management.

I was at the UCLA class led by Patrick Comiskey and Shelby Ledgerwood on Wednesday. The topic of my time in front of the class was the Three Tier System and Wine Politics. I provided a terribly partisan rendition of hte topic. But it appeared to me tha the students enjoyed the discussion nonetheless.

Flying home that night I had the chance to reflect on the educational opportunities that have developed for those interested iln testing the waters of the wine industry. It's not just UCLA. A number of colleges across the country now offer not just oenology and viticultural classes, but wine business classes. All this is a level more than the wine appreciation classes that represented the totality of the wine education experience when I got into the business just 20 years ago.

This is of course a testament to the rise of the wine industry in general in the United States over the past two decades. As told the students, they are way ahead of the game compared to where I was when I sought entry into the wine industry. Everything I learned about the wine industry was "on the job." Louis Foppiano won't like to hear this (maybe he knows), but when I landed my first job in the wine industry at a PR firm in Santa Rosa, California and when I was assigned the Foppiano Vineyards account, I knew next to nothing about what I was supposed to be doing. I understood little of the way the wine industry worked, even in it simplest forms.

These students at UCLA will walk away with a pretty darned good grounding when they finish the class based on what I saw of Patrick's and Shelby's approach, thoroughness and enthusiasm.

I must have been somewhere over Monterey when I started to think about what someone ought to try to take with them into a first time search for a position in the wine industry. The list of skills and knowledge isn't complex and is easily attainable. But I do think it's required:

1. A basic history of wine industry, and not just the CA wine industry.

2. A basic knowledge of how wine is made

3. A basis familiarity with the primary winemaking grapes and wine regions around the world.

4. Excellent Communication skills (including writing)

5. Advanced interpersonal communication skills.

6. The abilty to lift a case of wine.

With this foundation, I think the person seeking a position in the wine industry will have a leg up.



9 Responses

  1. Marcia M - August 26, 2011

    Has there EVER been a wine industry job description that DIDN’T have #6 as the last requirement of skills in the list? LOL

  2. Tom Wark - August 26, 2011

    It simply had to be included!!

  3. Doug Wilder - August 26, 2011

    Good start to a list. From my experience I would add at least a couple skills, and one pleasant, unexpected byproduct:
    1. Prepare to work nights, weekends and holidays (at least for the first few years)
    2. Bone up on mop skills
    3. Trust your own palate
    4. Next to a golden retriever puppy, working in wine was a great way to meet girls.

  4. Shelby Ledgerwood - August 28, 2011

    Thank you again for coming to speak to our class – you were an inspiration!
    Since you’ve covered the nitty-gritty, here are my two bits:
    1) be humble (enough with all the attitude)
    2) stand by your word (just do what you say)
    Shelby Ledgerwood

  5. gdfo - August 29, 2011

    An item that always seems to be overlooked is, a desire to be of real service to customers and suppliers.

  6. Justin Lowe - August 30, 2011

    Hi Tom – thanks for your great presentation in our UCLA Extension “Business of Wine Management” class last week. As a current student looking to start out in the trade, one observation I’d make is that a spirit of entrepreneurship and a proactive attitude also appear to be useful in seeking out job opportunities or launching new business ventures.
    Regards, Justin

  7. Janeen Olsen - August 31, 2011

    Much closer to home, you still have the standing invitation to come speak to the students of Wine Marketing at Sonoma State University. I know the timing didn’t work out the last time we spoke, but hopefully in the near future we can get on your calendar as we would love to hear your presentation too.

  8. Ann Reynolds - August 31, 2011

    I enjoyed your comments about our shared experience of learning “on the job”.
    I agree with the suggestions for those seeking to get into the wine industry and would also suggest to them that they seek out and take as many classes as possible to flesh out their overall familiarity w/the wine industry.

  9. Recruitment Auckland - January 15, 2012

    Yes, nights and weekends are a must with these positions.

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