A head for wine and a head for business don't always go together, but if you've got both, then importing wine could be the right career for you. A degree that covers the business aspect of this industry is an ideal building block, to which you can add further education or certification in wine-related topics such as enology or viticulture.
The role of choosing and importing wine typically falls under the occupations of restaurant manager, chef and wine shop business owner. While work experience and specialized courses can help build a career in the wine industry, wine importers must be skilled in sales and communication and have an appreciation for wine. Degree requirements typically involve some business management or sales education, though knowledge of wine is critical.
|Required Education||Degrees in management, business, and sales are recommended|
|Other Requirements||Knowledge of wine, wine culture, and the industry|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||2% (buyers and purchasing agents)*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$52,940 (for wholesale and retail buyers, except farm products)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Wine Importer Education
No one particular course of study or degree program will guarantee a job as a wine importer. An undergraduate degree program in management, business, sales or a related field of study can prepare individuals for the work of buying and selling wine. Aspiring wine importers might earn a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree in grape-growing (viticulture) and winemaking (enology).
Those who wish to import wine as part of their careers should consider which aspect of the wine business interests them most. Individual programs may allow for specialization in a particular area of the wine-making industry; for example, wine business management can be a focus within a major in hospitality.
Advanced degree programs in viticulture and enology usually have a scientific and agricultural focus; they may not necessarily provide training on the specifics of importing wine. However, information learned in these courses can be useful to prospective wine importers who wish to open vineyards or otherwise expand their involvement with the wine industry. Certificate programs in various aspects of the wine industry are also available through accredited universities and wine organizations.
Courses and certification programs in wine are available to individuals at all levels of involvement with the wine industry. One can earn certification in one of many topics or simply take individual courses. Topics covered might include the history of wine, food and wine pairing, blind tasting, fortified wines, international wine markets and wine business management. Certification programs may require externships, and some courses may be available online.
Courses pertaining to viticulture cover many scientific topics, such as vineyard pest management and the biochemistry of wine fermentation. Courses related to wine management may cover topics such as food service systems, advertising, hospitality management and public relations. Classes that one might take toward a general business or management degree include accounting, intercultural studies and political science.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), enologists who study wine-making are considered food scientists. Food scientists and technologists in general earned an annual average salary of $65,840 in 2015. The BLS also predicted that agriculture and food scientists could expect about-average employment growth of 5% from 2014-2024.
Wholesale and retail buyers (except farm products) earned an annual median wage of $52,940 per the BLS in 2015. Buyers and purchasing agents, in general, can expect slower than average job growth of 2% from 2014-2024, the BLS states.
While there's no degree program that will completely prepare you for a career as a wine importer, you can easily combine studies in both business or sales and wine making or wine management. Within the field there are many niches in which you can specialize, from wine pairing to international wine marketing and more. An advanced degree in enology may help you earn a higher salary and better job prospects.