Wine Career Advice and or help

Discussion in 'UK Wine Forum' started by GeorgeParkinson19, Sep 5, 2018.

  1. Dear All,

    After recently graduating the University of Birmingham with a degree in Political Science, however for a few years now i have had a desire to work in the wine trade.

    I am currently doing my WSET level 2, with the hope of doing level 3 soon afterwards. I hope to move to london also around Christmas time.

    I was just wondering whether anyone on the forum could offer any advice or help or even perhaps contacts that would help me at all in regards to jobs in the wine trade as such.

    Thank you very much,
    I hope it is ok to do a post like this,
    Kind Regards,
    George Parkinson
  2. Good to get WSET under your belt.

    Do your research , on prospective employers. There are plenty of rogues out there. Lots of staff turnover at certain firm(s) Exploiting the demand.

    Competition, is tough, you won’t be alone ! Just get as much extra curricular as you can. Thomas Parker newly made youngest ever MW is a paragon, and perfect example of peoples avid interest.

    I glean from winepages You have the start of a cellar, made, regional visits, a very keen interest. That’s a good start.
    I wish you all success
    GeorgeParkinson19 likes this.
  3. Thank you David.

    I have done a lot of searching online, many jobs however they want loads of experience which is understandable. Hoping to start in a shop first and work my way up as such.

    Thank you for your response
  4. George.

    I would countenance thinking very hard about why you want to join the trade. The brutal reality is that for most people it's pretty poorly paid, long hours and very hard work. Great bottles are encountered but usually because someone else is paying - one will rarely make enough to buy them oneself. I say this having been through it myself - now I'm out the other side and working elsewhere it's a relief to finally be able to buy the stuff one was (previously) flogging.
    Leon Marks and Jeremy Caan like this.
  5. That's a bit downbeat.......

    George has a whole career ahead and like any other industry you start somewhere, work hard and see where it takes you.

    Most of my friends itb love their jobs and careers and it is a 'lifestyle choice'.

    Good luck George!
    GeorgeParkinson19 likes this.
  6. David

    Thomas Parker is currently youngest MW but not youngest ever. Not sure who that was but I think people have passed as young as 25 and as Tom joined Farr Vintners in 2011 post University he must be older than that.

    Best of luck, George. Wine doesn't make many people rich but it is a great fun career
    Leon Marks likes this.
  7. I think Charles Taylor remains the youngest person to pass the MW. He wad either 25 or 26.
  8. George,

    My advice is to get your hands dirty as a cellar rat or vineyard worker, or do some boring underpaid job to get your foot in the door.
    You need to get the ball rolling.

    If you have had even a very modest position at a well-known estate or with a well-known wine merchant people will start to take you seriously.

    A job in continental Europe would look good on the CV. But with Brexit coming, I'd be on the case sooner rather than later.

    Alex R.
    Graham Harvey likes this.
  9. Alex makes a good point. There are numerous ways to work in wine, and it's easy to just look at the typical wine merchant dogsbody as the only real option (and that's arguably the least attractive for some people). The first real divisor is either selling wine or making wine. Beyond that you can still go in hundreds of different directions. I've had a go working with wine in technology, for example. You've also got the service side of things - Sommelier type skills are a big, big part of the industry.

    For a young chap, I agree that it's good to get some experience abroad, purely because it's so character building and life enhancing. Go and do a harvest somewhere, perhaps. That'll either galvanize you or break you, I'd think! I'm pretty sure there are a few wine type job boards online that provide these things. There might even be some wine making forumites who could point you in the right direction.
    GeorgeParkinson19 likes this.
  10. And also it often may be hard work and low paid especially if you are retailing or working directly with estates but George also may be now or in future be of decent coin and could start his own wine business with his own interests.
    He may also invest in businesses once he has a grasp of the industry and the wines.

    If not it’s a few years of good early education and I wish in some ways I had gained experience earlier. Given that career wise I’m very glad I went computer bound but I’m now in a position that I feel a few years behind as a hobby and passion rather than a career.
    GeorgeParkinson19 likes this.
  11. I'd also say get the cellar rat bit done before wife and kids come along when it becomes impossible. A lot of Indie Wine Merchants will be looking for people - and I have some decent contacts in that part of the trade - once you are living somewhere and looking for a job there let me know and I'll ping out some emails. At the same time Christmas is coming so you may be able to get some work for someone in the run up to it easily enough.
    GeorgeParkinson19 likes this.
  12. I’ve worked in the trade for about 13 years now and have been with the same company from the start of my wine career.

    Why? Because they hired me with zero wine experience and they’ve looked after me, yes they really are out there.

    The wine industry is tough and you have to work hard but then which industry is different?

    Do check out the WSET job page, Drinksbusiness and Reed, a few good recruitment agencies about aswel, specialising in the Drinks industry.

    The first job might not be THE job but it will give you experience, be prepared to start low and work your way up through learning, gaining experience etc.

    I’ve enjoyed every moment of it sofar, I’ve learned a lot, tasted a lot of nice wines but I started as an administrator and worked my way up to now selling top Rhône agencies, fine wines to On Trade & Off Trade etc.

    Good luck!
  13. @GeorgeParkinson19 - good luck with your career choice. Before serious responsibilities set in, try and get in a season in Burgundy or somewhere fun. It won't matter if the pay is poor if you don't really have any outgoings at the time. This would really give you a deep insight into wine culture. Also whilst other people can help open the door for you, I do believe that you make your own luck in life, so if you do not ever try anything you will never know.
    GeorgeParkinson19 likes this.
  14. Thank you Tim. That would be of huge use to me and a very kind gesture. We shall keep in touch.
  15. I defo understand working up from the bottom and i have no issues with that at all if anything i think its better as it provides an opportunity to almost learn every aspect and also to appreciate every aspect. I also would for sure like to do a season somewhere. I posted a similar post on the Old Millfieldian page (School Old boys page) on fbook and i was actually on the phone to an Old Millfieldian this morning in regards to a season out in NZ.

    I am lucky in the sense that i have decided i would like to go into the wine trade as a career at a young age (22) so i, touch wood have plenty of time in front of me to learn and go up the ladder as such.

    I must say i do really value everyones comments as it is fantastic to hear from people both in the wine trade and people with just a wine interest. So thank you to everyone who has posted.
  16. That sounds great George - just go for it.

    It's also worth adding it's, of course, a people business* so getting about and meeting people and contacts is the way to go - most of my friends who have quite desirable wine jobs were approached through who they knew rather than a job advert.

    * though in the words of the estimable Erni Loosen 'the wein business is a schlepping business.....' Quite true!
    Leon Marks likes this.
  17. Use your degree to get a dodgy job in politics. Make stacks of money. Quit. Get a job in the wine industry.
  18. Hi George,

    Here's my advice as somebody who's been in the wine trade for 15 years.

    It ultimately depends on where you want to end up (retail, private client sales, on-trade sales, B2B sales, buying, marketing etc)

    I would recommend starting work at a good independent retailer and building up a couple of years experience. Ultimately you want to focus on retailers where you have chance of tasting good bottles and engaging with top wine makers. You can also try the majestic wine graduate scheme, which has launched many a wine career (including mine), although I don't think the company's range is what it once was and i might be more inclined to look for a job with somebody like Jeroboams, Hedonism or Berry Bros & Rudd, if you do want the safety and opportunity of working for shop with a good range of wines and job security. The hours in retail are long and anti social (often working late and on weekends) and it can be a very physical but the right shop will give you a good grounding.

    After that I would try and focus your career a bit more. By this stage you should have a better sense of where your interests lie. You will need to think about the parts of the job that you enjoy the most and try and build on them. This is the easiest part to get wrong. Many people focus on earning more money, rather than having better opportunities and training which is critical to having a successful and fulfilling career in the wine trade. Many people, myself included, move into sales but it's important to remember that wine sales is actually very broad. You have merchants that specialize in private client sales, on-trade sales, B2B sales. Some have fairly generic lists, others are much more esoteric. You want to work for a merchant that is going to invest time in training you properly and who wants to see you do well. This is something I think the larger merchants do better, though there are many excellent small merchants you can work for.

    I love the industry i work in. I can think of few industries where you colleagues and customers can end up becoming life long friends. However my career choices have worked out well for me but i know others who didn't have the same luck and who made miss-steps, for them it has been a harder, less rewarding slog.

    I wish you all the best.
    George Marshall and Alex Jagger like this.
  19. Capitalisation of the first person singular pronoun is a habit easy to acquire and while it's a mere detail these things make a considerable difference!
  20. i despair of fusspots! ;)
    Leon Marks likes this.
  21. I'll probably never be an MW (far too generalist for me), but the best thing you can do is get yourself to as many wineries as possible and educate yourself from the grass-roots up. Wine merchants are heavily reliant on marketing, and it maybe hard to see beyond the brand (especially when you are selling).

    Lionel has a fair point though. Sadly, any career choice is anchored by the realities of modern living (and not solely dictated by enjoyment and passion), I'd pursue your other career also, set yourself a firm base their, and treat wine as a main hobby. Then see where it takes you.
  22. Happy to try and help George as a fellow University of Birmingham POLSIS graduate, as well as an MW like Jasper. My own view, (and personal experience) is to get retail grounding on a grad scheme in one of the big supermarkets or somewhere like Diageo where you can enjoy broad yet challenging training and exposure with like minded individuals. This you can then use to fine tune your way into a successful career in wine
    GeorgeParkinson19 likes this.
  23. I have had some luck, I had been applying for jobs over the last week and I have very fortunately been invited to attend an interview for a position at The Sampler! Which i'm very excited about.
  24. Good luck George, that would be a very good place to start for a number of reasons.
    GeorgeParkinson19 likes this.

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