There’s little doubt that most people’s relationship with alcohol went through a journey these past 18 months. Some went dry, perhaps for a week or for a month—or maybe even permanently. In contrast, others became amateur mixologists or wannabe sommeliers. From an industry standpoint, however, education became more accessible. Whether it was a tasting with a favourite BC winery via Zoom or an online course in viticulture, it suddenly became possible to walk among the vines—from the comfort of our couches.
Now that life is slowly adjusting back to normal, people are reprioritizing. Whether it’s a new hobby or a pivot in career, the liquor industry provides many options for people of all knowledge levels. And while it’s possible to do without, official wine certifications can help bridge the gap and lead enthusiasts towards a new career path.
Types of Jobs in the Wine Industry
The number of career options available in the wine industry is infinite. Generally speaking, they can break into two categories. Some paths lead to the creation of wine, such as growing grapes and tending vines (viticulture) or winemaking (viniculture). Other roles support the end product (aka wine in a bottle) through marketing, sales, promotions, or service.
For those who enjoy the outdoors and yearn to get their hands dirty, viticulture is an excellent place to start, as many positions are seasonal, especially at wineries that are looking for extra hands during harvest. People who have a knack for science, particularly chemistry, may enjoy winemaking, which is the actual process of turning grape juice into wine through fermentation.
Tourism and hospitality are other components of winery work that connect people who enjoy working with customers. Whether it’s pouring wine for guests from behind a tasting bar, leading a group through a vineyard and cellar tour, or welcoming visitors to enjoy an experience at a winery restaurant—there is a slew of immersive jobs that invite slightly different skill sets from aspiring workers.
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Even more industry opportunities present themselves once the wine gets packed into cases, then placed onto trucks to become available across the country—or sometimes internationally. People from all specialities, such as accounting, human resources, marketing or sales, can find roles with wine brokers, retailers, distributors or agents. For many positions, a passion for wine is the priority prerequisite. But for others, formal wine certifications will undoubtedly open a door or give a leg up along a new career journey.
Where To Get Educated
Much like any career path, different institutes offer various specialities to study. To pick the right one, it’s essential to know what you want to accomplish in the industry.
For aspirations in wine service or hospitality, focus on education that specializes in training sommeliers. The International Sommelier Guild and the Court of Master Sommeliers are standard routes for all staff working in a restaurant, bar or even at special events.
The Wine and Spirit Education Trust is considered the most standardized wine education program across the globe. The London-based institute has an introductory-level focus on service, and a wide range of curriculum that covers pretty much every other aspect of the industry. The format offers four levels–from entry-level to expert–and suits those working in a winery tasting room, in sales and marketing positions with a distributor, or pretty much any role involving selling or the business of wine. Depending on the level, online courses are available. However, for in-person learning, look for WSET programs offered by local educators such as Fine Vintage, Statera or Everything Wine.
With a deeper focus on specific regions, the Wine Scholar Guild offers speciality courses. In addition to France, Italy and Spain, master-level certifications are also available for French regions such as Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne. All courses are available online. But some in-person courses are provided locally in Vancouver and Victoria by Cru Consultancy.
For courses in wine science, whether it’s viticulture or viniculture, look into local post-secondary institutes that offer evening or weekend classes. The University of British Columbia offers a course on the Introduction to Wine Science. The Okanagan College also has several certificate options that are wonderful for those seeking entry-level positions. If being a winemaker is an aspiration, Canada’s only university-level program is offered in Ontario at Brock University.
Of course, there’s always the low-commitment option of increasing wine knowledge one tasting at a time. Available online, seek out the a-la-carte region and tasting sessions on
GoodWineGal.ca. Alternatively, to get to know the local wine community, visit Aperomode.ca for casual, in-person tastings happening across Vancouver.
If classes or courses aren’t an option right now, there’s a plethora of information available wherever you look—you just have to ask. Buying a bottle in your favourite wine shop? Ask the clerk or consultant about a particular bottle or their experience with wine education. Visiting a local winery? Inquire about where the grapes grow and where the wine is bottled, or simply look online!
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