Wine is produced in all 50 states, according to "Time" magazine, and the people who produce it are called winemakers or vintners. Many work for wineries or wine companies, while others are self-employed. Vintners do everything from selecting the grapes to testing the wine before it's bottled. If you can picture yourself supervising the planting and crushing of grapes and guiding tourists through a winery, the job of vintner may be perfect for you. You'll need at least a bachelor's degree in wine-making, as producing wine is a science. In return, expect to earn an above-average salary compared to most careers.
Some of the top-producing wine companies are in California, including those in the Napa, Central and Sonoma valleys. Top-level winemakers, or vintners, earned some the highest salaries nationwide in Napa Valley at $127,112, according to the Wine Business Monthly's "2011 Salary Survey Report." If you worked as a senior-level winemaker in either Central or Sonoma Valley, you'd earn $121,331 or $115,259 per year, respectively.
Average Salary and Qualifications
Not everyone can work as a vintner in the premier wineries of California since these jobs are highly competitive. The average salary for all vintners in the United States was $50,000 as of 2013, according to the job site Indeed. To become a vintner, you need at least a bachelor's degree in wine-making or viticulture and enology -- sciences that deal with vine growing and wine production. Many employers may also prefer that you have at least one year of experience as an assistant winemaker. Other essential requirements include an attention to detail and analytical, communication, problem-solving, decision-making, math, negotiating and marketing skills.
Salary by Region
In 2013, average salaries for vintners varied the most within the West region, according to Indeed, where they earned the highest average salaries of $55,000 in California and lowest of $34,000 in Hawaii. Those in the Northeast made $43,000 to $61,000 in Maine and New York, respectively. If you worked as a vintner in Louisiana or Washington, D.C., you'd make $43,000 or $59,000 per year, which were the lowest and highest incomes in the South region. In the Midwest, you'd earn the most in Illinois and least in South Dakota and Nebraska -- $54,000 and $38,000, respectively.
Contrary to many industries, small wineries tend to pay vintners more than larger ones. For example, in 2011, top-level vintners in the Napa, Central and Sonoma valleys earned average salaries of $128,425 in wineries that produced less than 50,000 cases of wine per year, according to Wine Business Monthly, and $115,819 in those that manufactured over 500,000 cases. You may also earn more working for a smaller wine company, or if you're self-employed. As a self-employed vintner, you'd likely earn more profits per wine case sold, especially after you've worked in the industry long enough to learn the business.
Wine sales grew by nearly 35 percent from 2000 to 2010, increasing from 205 to 276 million cases, according to WineBusiness.com, a leading researcher in the global wine industry. These trends should continue into the next decade, especially since wine sales continued to increase even during the 2007 to 2009 recession. If the economy continues improving, you may find even more job opportunities as a vintner.
- Careersnz: Winemaker: Entry Requirements
- World Food Wine: The Winemaker
- Washington State University: Viticulture and Enology
- Wine Business Monthly: 2011 Salary Survey Report
- Indeed: Winemaker Salary
- Time Magazine: Fifty States of Wine
- Indeed: Winemaker Salary in Maine, and New York
- Indeed: Winemaker Salary in Hawaii, and California
- Indeed: Winemaker Salary in Louisiana, and Washington, DC
- WineBusiness.com: U.S. Wine Consumer Trends: Boomers' Tastes Evolve, Millennials Continue to Drive Market Growth
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