Raise a glass to all the oenologists out there, who oversee and manage the process that creates the wine we drink with dinner. Winemaking is both an art and a science, so while a degree is not strictly required and many oenologists simply learn through work experience, a bachelor's degree in oenology or food science is a great asset to building a career.
An oenologist manages the different stages of wine production, including fermentation, aging and bottling. They can also perform business duties for a winery, such as sales and marketing. Completion of a bachelor's degree program in a field like oenology, food science or viticulture can provide the educational foundation for this career path. Some aspiring oenologists learn the trade on the job.
|Required Education||None specified; bachelor's degree is recommended|
|Other Requirements||Excellent sense of smell and taste; on-the-job training|
|Job Growth (2014-2024)*||3% increase for all food scientists and technologists|
|Median Salary (2016)**||$56,512 for winemakers|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com
Job Description of an Oenologist
Oenologists, alternately called enologists, supervise and manage the stages of wine production. They coordinate with viticulturists to grow and harvest grapes, direct the fermentation process, supervise the aging process and oversee bottling. Oenologists can also develop new wines and participate in the administrative side of the winemaking business.
Duties of an Oenologist
According to the California Employment Development Department, an oenologist's primary responsibility is blending different grape varieties together to create a finished wine (www.edd.ca.gov). Generally, an oenologist's first duty in the winemaking process is to decide the appropriate time to harvest grapes.
After harvest, they direct the grape crushing process that results in a mixture called must. Oenologists heat the must after adding ingredients, such as yeast, sulfites and sugar, to trigger fermentation. They direct and manage the work of cellar assistants, who operate and maintain the various machines utilized during winemaking.
Oenologists supervise laboratory technicians who analyze samples of wine while it ages. Based on a wine's chemical composition, oenologists decide when a wine can be blended and bottled. Additional duties may vary by winery, but can include keeping production records, composing copy for wine bottle labels, developing new vineyards and selling to distributors and customers.
Requirements to Become an Oenologist
Winemakers must have refined senses of taste and smell. Knowledge of grape varieties is also essential. It's possible for an oenologist to learn on the job by working low-level positions and advancing to winemaker over time.
Completion of a bachelor's degree program in viticulture and oenology (often designated as enology) can provide the scientific knowledge necessary for making wine. A food science degree program that includes oenology courses can suffice. Relevant coursework includes sensory wine evaluation, wine technology, soil science and organic chemistry. Additional coursework in business and marketing may be beneficial for positions at some smaller wineries, where oenologists have duties outside of production.
Graduates are qualified for entry-level positions, such as cellar assistant or laboratory technician. With experience, these professionals can advance to oenologist positions.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) considers oenologists (enologists) to be part of the larger group of food scientists and technologists. In 2015, individuals in this employment group earned a median annual salary of $65,840. A 3% employment increase was expected for these scientists and technologists from 2014 through 2024, according to the BLS. January 2016 reports from PayScale.com indicate that winemakers earned a median annual salary of $56,512.
Aspiring oenologists can pursue a bachelor's degree or gain experience on the job, but the essential qualifications for this career are a keen and well-developed sense of taste and smell and familiarity with different varieties of grapes. Oenologists manage the entire winemaking process from harvest to fermentation to sampling, blending and bottling. Some also handle marketing and promotion for their winery.