Should I Become an Oenologist?
Oenologists, also known as winemakers or enologists, primarily manage the fermentation and aging processes that turn grapes into wine. They could also oversee harvesting, bottling and sales. Depending on the size of the winery, oenologists might even specialize in the creation of new blends. Oenologists often spend long hours working on their feet and must be willing to live in geographic regions offering appropriate weather conditions for the growth of grapes.
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree|
|Degree Fields||Viticulture, oenology, food science, or a related field|
|Experience||1-3 years of wine industry experience|
|Key Skills||Strong verbal and written communication, problem-solving, and decision-making skills; attention to detail; computer skills; ability to operate and monitor winery equipment|
|Salary||$56,512 (2016 median for winemakers)|
Sources: California Employment Development Department, Occupational Information Network, O*NET OnLine, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Payscale.com
Oenologists need a bachelor's degree in a related field and experience of 1-3 years in the wine industry as needed. These professionals should have strong verbal and written communication skills, problem-solving and decision-making capabilities, attention to detail and computer skills. They should also have the ability to operate and monitor winery equipment.
According to 2016 data from PayScale.com, winemakers earned a median annual salary of $56,512.
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Steps to Become an Oenologist
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Most wineries look for oenologists with a Bachelor of Science in such fields as viticulture, winemaking or oenology (also referred to as enology). However, these degrees are relatively uncommon. Degree programs in agriculture, food science or chemistry might also be applicable and are more readily available. Relevant courses include organic chemistry, soil science, grape varieties, health and safety procedures, wine technology and sensory evaluation techniques.
Individuals looking to work in this field should also:
- Complete an internship. Interns can work directly with oenologists and may be involved with harvesting and crushing grapes, filling barrels and tasting wines. Depending on their interests, they might also work with a winery's research, operations management or marketing departments.
Aspiring oenologists should also:
- Take business electives. Oenologists who work at smaller wineries could have responsibilities outside of the winemaking process, such as advertising, distribution management and public relations. Students can prepare for these added job duties by supplementing their degree program with coursework in business, marketing and public speaking.
Step 2: Gain Winery Experience
Once they've graduated from a bachelor's degree program, aspiring oenologists can begin acquiring the necessary work experience by taking on entry-level positions, such as cellar assistant or laboratory technician. Cellar assistant duties include operating equipment used to monitor fermentation and bottle wines. They can also help oenologists blend wines. Laboratory technicians perform chemical analyses of wine to help oenologists determine when the fermentation and aging processes are complete. Experience working with growers, both during planting and harvesting, can also be beneficial to those who want to advance to positions as oenologists.
- Stay in good physical condition. Oenologists are often required to spend long periods of time on their feet, both outdoors and in cellars; as a result, winemakers should ensure they're in suitable shape to conduct their job duties.
Step 3: Consider Completing a Master's Degree Program
Some prospective oenologists advance in the field through graduate study. Master's degree programs are also available in viticulture and oenology and include advanced coursework in such topics as microbiology, plant genetics and fermentation chemistry. These programs might also allow students to complete projects in university extension sites and research facilities.
Oenologists, or winemakers, should have some experience in the field and possess a bachelor's degree in viticulture, oenology or food science.