by Danielle Noce

Last Updated: June 08, 2024

Entry Level Jobs in the Wine Industry

The wine industry is a vast network of jobs from vineyards, wineries, tasting rooms, distributors, to restaurants, bars, and specialty retail shops. If you love wine and are interested in making a career in it, there are many unique entry level routes to enter the industry. This article will summarize the most popular entry level opportunities, what can set you apart from other candidates when seeking them out, and how those roles could potentially lead to a long-term career.


The best opportunity to explore your interest in wine production is through working a harvest. These jobs may have different titles depending on the part of the world you are job-seeking but typically range from harvest intern, harvest casual, to seasonal cellarhand. These jobs can last anywhere from two to six months, oftentimes the longer opportunities are available in the warmer winegrowing regions which can support many different grape varieties to be produced. The work itself can span from vineyard sampling, fruit receival and sorting, performing fermentation monitoring and movements, and general sanitation operations like prepping and sanitizing the equipment and tanks.

The applicants for these roles span candidates from around the world. Since these are temporary seasonal positions, your availability will determine where you choose to apply–January through June for southern hemisphere internships in places such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile, and Argentina whereas July through December covers the northern hemisphere regions throughout the United States, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Austria.

As there can be many other applicants it is important to set yourself apart for a production role in the following ways:

  • If you are not authorized to work in the country you are seeking a harvest experience in, pursue the necessary visa to have it in-hand or in-process before you apply. This demonstrates your commitment to the interested employer. In the US, this often means working through organizations like CAEP for a J1 visa whereas many other countries like Australia and New Zealand offer special Working-Holiday visas for travelers under the age of 30 at a fairly low cost.
  • Leverage any previous experience that you can to show you are comfortable working in wet conditions, have an understanding of sanitation or general cleaning, or long hours under any kind of notable physical demands. This will demonstrate that you will be able to rise to the challenges that harvest offers.
  • Don’t be shy to ask important questions about logistics in regards to provided accommodation, transportation, or meals, how many interns the facility will be hiring, and any other greater team benefits.

After you successfully work your first harvest, if you enjoy the work in the cellar and want to continue to build your production career there are a few routes to pursue. Many winemakers typically work three to five harvests before they have enough experience to qualify for full-time roles in the most popular wine regions including Napa and Sonoma counties; these roles can span titles of Enologist, Cellar Hand, or Wine Production Assistant. Typically, Assistant Winemaker and Winemaker roles require many more years of experience to be considered.

As with many technical roles, if your dream is to be a Head Winemaker, pursuing formal education is the best way to keep your long-term career options broad. This education doesn’t necessarily need to be in the form of a four-year degree. If you already have a Bachelors, there are 1 or 2 year Masters programs at the most popular universities for Enology such as UC Davis, Oregon State, Washington State, and Cornell. Cornell offers a Masters of Professional Studies Degree that is only 2-3 semesters and doesn’t require substantial academic research, but rather an industry-focused capstone project. Similarly, there are professional wine certificates available from many smaller schools at the state (like UC Davis’ Wine Certificate Program) and community college level in prevalent wine regions. Napa Valley Community College offers a Wine Production Certificate which is a great resource for those looking to pursue a program while working in cellars locally.


If you are interested in exploring vineyard work, the entry level opportunities can be similar to working a harvest in the cellar as there are certain times of year where the work demand peaks and vineyard managers could be interested in expanding their team. These periods include pruning in the winter, suckering and shoot positioning in the early spring, and as harvest approaches in the late summer performing crop estimates and sugar sampling require hiring additional vineyard team members to collect data. Job postings for these roles could be Vineyard Intern, Vineyard Hand or Worker, or Viticultural Technician.

With the growing popularity of precision viticulture, there is a demand for vineyard interns who are keen to help install, monitor, and collect data from these systems. The job opportunities could come from viticultural consulting companies that have contracts spanning many client vineyards or with larger wine companies with enough land to justify investing in these viticultural experts in-house.

The best way to stand out for these roles is to demonstrate comfort in tough outdoor working conditions with long days in both hot and cold weather conditions and on your feet for extended periods in uneven terrain. Additionally, in many US viticultural regions a speaking proficiency in Spanish would set you apart as a preferred candidate.

Similar to pursuing a long-term career in wine production, if you are hoping to work as a viticulturist or vineyard manager, the pursuit of formal education courses will help to open doors for further career development and many of the same schools with reputable enology programs will also have great coursework and specialty programs for viticulture. These programs also help you to establish a network within the industry.

Sales - Winery, Distributor, Retail, Bar & Restaurant

If you are looking for a more customer-facing role in wine, there are many different sales career routes you can take. All facets of the 3-tier alcohol system require sales associates including Tasting Rooms, Distributors, Bars & Restaurants, and Retail shops. The best fit for you depends on your preferences.

  • Tasting Room Host, Associate, Staff: Tasting room jobs typically require weekends and for a person to be very intimately customer facing. These hosts will spend 30-90 minutes with each guest and must be deeply knowledgeable about that winery's portfolio, history, winemaking & vineyard practices. If you are passionate about a specific brand, this would be a great fit and your career could grow into different tasting room managerial levels, Direct-to-Consumer & Wine Club management, and other sales opportunities after a few years spent succeeding in a tasting room staff position.
  • Distributor Area Sales Representative, Consultant, Associate: A distributor is responsible for representing a wide array of wine brands to restaurants, bars, and retailers. Their scope of influence is often divided into regional sections. If you are comfortable representing a vast portfolio of producers while also foraging a large network of sales relationships in a localized region you could be a great fit for these fast-paced and competitive roles. With luck, a successful sales representative can move into roles of managing larger districts, specialty portfolios, or other opportunities present throughout large distribution companies. In the US, the largest distribution companies are Southern Glazer’s and RNDC.
  • Retail Shop Associate, Staff: A specialty wine shop retailer is another great place to launch a career in wine sales. This is a great chance to be exposed to a wide range of wine brands from across the world but in a more relaxed-paced environment. Many shops involve their staff in tastings with distributors and wineries so your opportunity to develop your palette could be immense. Although you will interface with the shop’s various customers the interactions may not be as intimate as that in a tasting room but a thorough general understanding of wine is important and especially so with the SKUs in the shop.
  • Restaurant & Bar Staff: If you are interested in pursuing the education to become a Sommelier, experience working at a bar or restaurant with an established wine program is a must. Some places are willing to hire based on previous service industry experience, but to really stand out in this pool of candidates pursuing a WSET 1 or 2 would be a great place to start to develop your own knowledge base as well as set you apart from other applicants. Similarly, The Court of Master Sommeliers coursework will be required if you intend to establish a career in this sector. Oftentimes, many cities will have wine tasting groups and clubs available to those who are interested in studying together to pursue these certifications as well as online programs that offer guided study materials.

The best way to land any entry level job in wine is to demonstrate your passion to the employer and be specific and intentional with your application. Though there are a wide variety of options to launch your future wine career, finding the right fit for your personality and goals will help to ensure your long-term success. Check out Work In Wine for the latest wine industry jobs!

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