How to Become a Vintner: Education and Career Roadmap

Mar 06, 2020

Learn how to become a vintner. Explore the educational and on-the-job training options, licensing information and experience required for starting a career in winemaking.

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Vintners make wine, working closely with other vineyard professionals like viticulturists, who are responsible for growing the grapes. Vintners make decisions about the harvesting, crushing, pressing, fermenting and maturing of grapes based on their knowledge of chemistry as it relates to winemaking. Much of winemaking is seasonal and requires long days beyond the typical 40-hour workweek, especially during harvest time. Work takes place both indoors and outdoors. Vintners must be physically fit to carry out tasks that require lifting, bending or pushing. The environment inside a winery is carefully controlled so the wine develops properly.

Vintners typically learn winemaking on the job or through programs in enology - which is the science of wine making - grape cultivation, and viticulture. Educational options range from certificate to doctoral degree programs, some of which can prepare vintners for entrepreneurship.

Career Information

Degree Field Enology or viticulture
Licensure and Certification Voluntary. Federal permits and state licenses needed for owning a wine making business
Experience Apprenticeships in a winery or taking college courses can help you learn about growing grapes and/or producing wine
Key Skills Good communication skills, problem-solving abilities, good at operating machines, keen sense of smell and taste, in-depth knowledge of enology and viticulture
Salary (Jan. 2020) $61,141 per year (Median salary)

Sources: College Foundation of North Carolina, U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,

While self-employed vintners do not need a degree, those seeking employment in wineries will most likely need a formal education. Certification is voluntary. Those who want to own a wine making business need to obtain federal permits and state licenses. Experience growing grapes and/or producing wine can be acquired by apprenticing in a winery or taking college courses. In addition to an in-depth knowledge of enology and viticulture, vintners should have a keen sense of smell and taste and good communication and problem-solving skills. They should also be comfortable operating machines.

As reported by in January 2020, wine makers earned a median annual salary of $61,141.

Step 1: Get Experience

Although some aspiring vintners begin their careers with an education program, according to the College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC), some vintners start out by finding employment at small wineries and learning as they work. Vintners often get their first job working in vineyards during the summer harvest, which require long hours of physically demanding work. The CFNC also stated that some vintners find success first in other careers and then transition into winemaking.

Step 2: Earn a Degree

While not absolutely necessary to become a vintner, completing a degree in enology or viticulture provides the educational background needed to understand the science of the winemaking process. Several schools offer associate's and bachelor's degree programs in enology and viticulture, and certificate programs are also available. These programs prepare vintners to grow grapes and produce wines through courses in plant biology, chemistry and soil science. Additional coursework includes topics in vineyard development, grapevine pest management, quality control in winemaking, sensory analysis, and wine packaging. Many programs have an internship or work experience requirement.

Consider a Bachelor's Degree in Wine Business Management or a Similar Field

Core courses for typically include topics in general business administration. Some programs require classes in hospitality management. Major coursework may cover topics in wine production, marketing, sales, and distribution, food-wine pairings and the international wine industry. Students may also complete a winery internship.

Consider Pursuing Graduate Studies

For those looking for more in-depth knowledge of the field, master's and Ph.D. programs are offered in enology and viticulture. In these research-based programs students learn about fermentation, flavor chemistry, and grapevine diseases. They may also study vineyard production, wine processing technologies, and winery design, and have the opportunity to work at vineyards and wineries run by university extension centers. Most master's degree programs culminate in a thesis, while Ph.D. programs require a doctoral thesis or dissertation.

Step 3: Get a License

Although licensure is not required for vintners employed by a winery, those who start their own businesses need a business license and a state license to produce alcoholic beverages. Each state has its own alcohol production regulations. In some cases, prospective wineries need to be approved by a state's agriculture department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

Step 4: Obtain Certification

Voluntary certification helps vintners demonstrate their winemaking knowledge to potential clients. The Society of Wine Educators offers the Certified Specialist of Wine and the Certified Wine Educator credentials for vintners who pass their exams.

Let's review. Vintners can learn about the winemaking business through undergraduate and graduate programs in enology and viticulture or on-the-job training. As of January 2020, the median annual salary for a vintner was $61,141.

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