It has been said that wine makes the heart rejoice. Some people like wine, and other people love wine. If you’re a wine enthusiast, have you ever thought of making a career out of it?
I first encountered the idea in high school, when my globe-trotting classmate announced owning a vineyard as a career goal. “I just love wine culture,” he said, even though he was not yet old enough to have imbibed.
Wine culture is about as old as civilization itself. It involves not just the production of wine, but also where and how it is served, and the rituals surrounding the drinking of this iconic beverage.
A unique branch of tourism has sprung up around the wine industry. Enrich your life with a career in wine tourism, helping others learn about and enjoy it, too. Below, we’ll discuss some of the exciting wine tourism career paths and how you can get involved in them.
Viticulture—Life on the Farm
Vineyards are farms that specialize in grape production. There are hands-on, seasonal jobs aplenty, including vineyard workers who plant, prune, and harvest from the vines; and viticulturists, who manage vineyards and see to the health of the plants.
Many vineyards also process, market, and sell wine. Enologists are needed to oversee the winemaking process, cellar workers for bottling and fermentation, and sales associates. Often, there are dedicated tour guides available to conduct tours of the vineyard and winemaking facilities. This guide must be knowledgeable of everything from the types of grapes the vineyard grows to the type of material used in the aging barrels.
If you are interested in working directly for the vineyard, the beginning of the year is the best time to look for a job. January and February follow the holiday rush and precede the busy growing season.
There are also ways to engage in wine tourism outside of the vineyard. We will explore guided wine tours next.
Guided Wine Tours and Tastings
Above, we discussed careers that introduce visitors to just one vineyard’s story. But often, wine enthusiasts want to experience all that a region has to offer. Guided wine tours and tastings can accomplish just that.
Regions with multiple vineyards within a few hours’ drive of one another often host “wine trails.” Since tastings may render tourists unable to safely drive themselves, guided tours by bus or private vehicle add to the glamour of the occasion.
You won’t have to learn Italian and move to Italy to work for or start a wine tour business (unless, of course, that’s what you want to do). Likely, there is a wine trail near you. California is well-known for its wine region, but most states host groupings of small wineries as well. For example, at least four wine trails exist within driving distance of my hometown in the American South.
What, though, if there is a dearth of wineries near you? Walking tours of cities are becoming increasingly popular. You could offer your services as a guide to the best bars and restaurants serving relatively local wines or interesting wines from around the world.
Speakeasies—bars with a “‘hidden’ quality—often concealed behind a door in a restaurant or hotel,” hearkening back to the romance of the 1920s prohibition era—are also surging in popularity. Your wine tourism specialty could be in guiding travelers to these special establishments.
You can take a more hands-off approach to a wine tourism career while still offering your expertise to others. How? Many travel agents or travel advisors specialize in a specific area or type of travel. You could make wine tourism your specialty.
Today, becoming a certified travel agent is easier than ever. The host agency Fora, for example, offers free training and resources to its up-and-coming agents.
Journalists and Influencers
A final way to make a career in wine tourism is by writing, photographing, and videoing it. Today, many people turn to their favorite social media influencers, bloggers, or “best of” lists when planning trips or getting the most out of where they live.
If you’re already writing or creating content, you can include wine-centric subjects to attract a like-minded audience. You might reach out to your favorite wineries to inquire about collaborations. Creating online content is also a great way to drive traffic towards anything else you’re doing in the wine industry—for example, if you are working as a travel agent or offering guided tours as discussed above.
Wine culture has a rich history, a global reach, and a vast and passionate audience of potential clients or customers. If you live near a winery or wineries, you can work hands-on in the winemaking process or by conducting guided tours. You can also consider offering travel advisory services or city tours of wine-serving establishments. Don’t forget the power of social media in getting the word out and generating excitement about what you do.