An oenologist, sometimes called an enologist, is a wine expert.
This expertise goes beyond distinguishing good wines from bad.
An oenologist has studied the entire winemaking process and generally works for a winemaker.
Have you ever wanted to make money by making wine?
Here’s everything you need to know about becoming an oenologist.
Table Of Contents
Oenologist: The Basics
An oenologist is someone who has studied the art of winemaking.
They’re different from a viticulturist, who specializes in the cultivation of grapes.
Once the grapes are grown, the oenologist’s job begins.
What is an Oenologist?
Oenology is the science of winemaking, starting with the freshly-harvested grapes.
It encompasses the entire process, including preparation, fermentation, and storage.
What Does an Oenologist Do?
An oenologist can do many things, depending on their position.
At a smaller vineyard, they may oversee the entire production process, including grape cultivation.
At a larger vineyard, they may perform a more specialized quality control role.
This can include chemical testing of wine at different stages of production.
Other oenologists work in wine promotion and even as wine critics.
If you’re looking for that kind of career, you don’t just have to be a technical wine expert.
You also need a sensitive nose and palate.
Jobs Related to Oenologist
- Botanists are scientists who study plants, either in a lab or in the field.
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- Farm managers oversee the operation of an entire farm.
Work Opportunities in the Oenology Industry
Oenology is a smaller industry with fewer opportunities than something like information technology.
That said, there are still plenty of opportunities for enterprising job-seekers.
Oenologist Job Description
An oenologist might have several responsibilities, including:
- Testing throughout the wine making process to ensure consistent quality.
- Ensuring proper storage conditions for fermentation.
- Overseeing bottling and fermentation.
- Overseeing the grape juice extraction process.
- Overseeing planting and harvesting (on smaller vineyards).
- Wine tasting.
- Wine criticism.
- Teaching at a university.
Top Oenologist Jobs and Careers
Most oenology programs are combined with viticulture.
According to Cornell University, these are the three top careers for Viticulture and Enology graduates:
- Vineyard management
- Teaching and research
Where Can an Oenologist Work?
After obtaining a degree, an oenologist can work in many areas.
Most will work at a vineyard.
Some larger winemakers have entire teams of oenologists, with a senior oenologist overseeing them.
Other oenologists go into the marketing side of the business.
With their expertise, they’re able to appeal to wine connoisseurs.
They speak the right language, and their descriptions don’t come off as marketing hype.
Some work for restaurants as resident wine experts.
Still, other oenologists choose to remain in academia and teach future oenologists.
What It’s Like to be an Oenologist
Before you seriously consider any career, you’ll want to know what the day-to-day job is like.
Let’s talk about what it’s like to be an oenologist.
Is Being an Oenologist Hard?
Winemaking is a cyclical business with periods of activity and inactivity.
For example, suppose you’re working in the field.
You’ll work hardest at harvest time when you have to bring in the grapes as quickly as possible.
At other times, you’ll work less hard.
Is an Oenologist Job Stressful?
Most oenologists like what they do!
Then again, it’s still a job. If your batch of wine isn’t fermenting properly, the timer is ticking.
You need to find out why, and you need to do it before the batch is ruined.
Common Oenologist Work Day
An oenologist’s typical work day will look vastly different depending on their job.
Because winemaking has so many components, it can even be different from day to day.
Oenologist Tasks & Duties
An oenologist may work in a lab or the field.
They can even work at a restaurant or university.
As you might imagine, different roles come with different duties.
Oenologist Work Hours & Schedule
Most oenologists work a 9-5 day.
That said, there are exceptions.
During harvest time, they may work from dawn to dusk.
An oenologist who works for a fancy restaurant might work in the evenings.
Oenologist Dress Code
Most oenologists will wear the uniform of whatever winery they work for.
A teaching oenologist can wear whatever they want, within reason.
An oenologist who works in marketing might wear a three-piece suit.
Does This Career Field Embrace Work/Life Balance?
Typically, yes. But again, remember that wine production is seasonal.
During harvesting and bottling, you can expect to work longer hours.
Oenologist Salary & Income
When you look at any job listing, you probably look at the salary first.
Let’s take a look at how much oenologists earn.
Do Oenologists Make Good Money?
In general yes.
Of course, it depends on your specific job and level of experience.
World-renowned sommeliers earn a lot more than entry-level assistant winemakers.
The first has decades of experience with flavor and aroma.
The second is usually a fresh-faced college graduate.
How Much Do Oenologists Make?
According to Glassdoor’s 2022 figures, the average oenologist earns $71,990 per year, plus $26,982 in incentives and benefits.
The lowest-paying positions start at around $44,000 per year.
The highest-paid oenologists earn upward of $377,000.
Overview of the Oenology Industry
The oenology industry encompasses many fields.
In this overview, I’ll be focusing on careers in the wine industry.
Career paths can be different for aspiring professors, critics, or marketers.
Oenologist Field: Career Progression
Most oenologists will start their careers with a college internship.
By interning, you establish a relationship with a vineyard. If you’re lucky, you can get a job with that vineyard after school.
If you’re not, you’ll at least have relevant experience on your resume.
Eventually, you can move into a supervisory position.
Many oenologists even strike out on their own and found new vineyards.
Is Oenologist a Good Career?
Oenology is an attractive field for any wine enthusiast.
Like any career, it has its ups and downs. But any job is better when you’re doing something you enjoy.
Oenologist Job Outlook
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to get a new job in the wine industry.
Demand for wine is not as high as it was in years past.
Because of this, many universities have dropped their oenology and viticulture programs.
Demand for Oenologists
The wine industry is currently stagnant.
Demand for new oenologists is limited to turnover from old oenologists who retire.
- France has an Official National Diploma of Oenology.
- All new US wine formulas require approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
Requirements, Skills, and Education Required for Oenologists
As you might imagine, not just anybody gets to be an oenologist.
You need to meet the job requirements.
So, what do you need to do to become an oenologist?
Who Should Consider an Oenologist Career Path?
Oenologists need to have strong communication and problem-solving skills.
They also need to perform a lot of monotonous tasks, like measuring the Ph levels of different batches.
Who Should NOT Consider an Oenologist Career Path?
If you don’t like wine, don’t be an oenologist.
You should also avoid this career if you don’t like working as part of a team.
What Do I Need to Become an Oenologist?
In theory, you don’t need to meet any requirements to become an oenologist.
You can open a vineyard right now, get FDA approval, and start selling your wine.
But if you want to work for an established business, you’ll need to meet some requirements.
Requirements for Becoming an Oenologist
There are currently no government-mandated requirements to become an oenologist.
What Skills Does an Oenologist Need?
An oenologist needs to be familiar with farming, bottling, and lab equipment.
What Education Does an Oenologist Need?
An oenologist needs a bachelor’s degree in oenology, viticulture, food science, or a related field.
Can You Become an Oenologist Without a Degree?
Technically, yes. In practice, no; no one will hire an oenologist without a degree.
What Experience Does an Oenologist Need?
Most vineyards require at least 1-3 years of previous experience.
That’s why it’s important to take a college internship.
Oenologist Education & Schooling
Oenology is a discrete academic field with specific degrees and awards.
Here are the basics of oenologist education.
What is Taught in an Oenologist Course?
Oenology courses revolve around the science of winemaking.
You’ll learn about the chemical process of fermentation and which grapes are best for which wines.
How Long Does an Oenologist Course Take?
Standard Oenology programs are bachelor’s degrees and take four years to complete.
Oenologist Education Options and Degree Programs
You don’t need an oenology degree to become an oenologist.
Degrees in viticulture and food science are also common.
A bachelor’s degree is the standard for oenologists.
Few go on to earn a graduate degree.
Master’s programs in Oenology typically focus on a specific type of wine.
If you want to pursue a master’s degree, you’ll need to study abroad.
Even the three programs available in the US are offered through the Wine Scholar Guild in Washington, DC.
All are remote-learning programs, taught by French wine masters.
Schools for Oenologists
According to Universities.com, these are the top 5 Viticulture and Enology programs in the US:
- Cornell University
- Texas A&M
- University of California – Davis
- Michigan State University
- California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo
Become an Oenologist
So, you’ve done all your research, and you’ve decided to become an oenologist.
How do you proceed?
Like most careers, it’s all about education and experience.
Steps to Become an Oenologist
Market conditions in the oenology field aren’t the greatest.
Simply put, there are more oenology graduates than there are open positions.
If you want to break into the field, you’ll need to work hard on your courses and maintain a high GPA.
It’s even more important to make an impression while you’re interning.
Think of an internship as your chance to make a first impression.
Do a fantastic job, and the winemaker will remember.
Even if they don’t have any job openings when you graduate, keep them in mind.
They may be willing to offer you a referral for a job that is open.
Current Career Job Openings
Just because there aren’t many open oenology positions doesn’t mean there aren’t any.
Here are a few great opportunities in the world of wine:
An oenologist is an expert on the winemaking process.
They know how to choose the best grapes and how to ferment different types of wine.
They know how to run the equipment and how to monitor the wine.
And they’re the people restaurants hire to choose the perfect pairings for their menu.
Starting a career in oenology isn’t easy. It takes hard work and dedication, along with a healthy dose of luck.
But if you can get your foot in the door, you’ll embark on a satisfying career.