I’m asked a lot of Women & Wine ® readers how they too can have a career that enables them to follow their passion and love for all things wine and food related. It’s a tough question, and one that is becoming more and more present as women have been opening the door to careers in the wine industry at a record pace over the past five years.
Ten years ago, about 5 percent of winemakers were women. That figure has accelerated enormously, and there are now quite a few master sommeliers and owners of wineries who are women. The fact is that winemaking was always about farming—very physical work—and in most cases, fell to the men. And traditionally in Europe, women ran wineries because they inherited them from their families—not because they started them themselves.
Flash forward to 2007. Today, women who are following their path to a second career, or have “retired” out of high-tech or banking, are opening wineries on their own or with their husbands. Women are applying to UC Davis and Fresno State at record highs to get degrees in wine making (a very tough course of chemistry, physics, etc. I might add), and entering the work force in the wine industry with these top credentials.
More and more women are choosing to go to culinary schools or open their own restaurants. When it comes to sommeliers in restaurants, they are also becoming more and more common.
So what does this mean for you if you want to follow your heart and work in the world of wine? If you’re not lucky enough to be able to relocate to wine country, you might want to try your hand at becoming a wine salesperson for a distributor in your state. Most of the people I know who sell wine in LA to restaurants, retail stores, and the like, are dynamic, smart, and hard working women who have found a “day job” that allows them to taste wine regularly and connect with other people who have a passion for the grape.
If you are considering a move to a wine growing region, be prepared to start at the bottom and make sure that you have some money in the bank, because the pay is low and the rents are high. Try to go outside the US (Mendoza, Argentina might be a good place to look), as you will probably be given more hands-on responsibility over a shorter period of time.
You can always consider writing as well. There is no shortage for need of great content about your own personal experiences with wine—our site is always looking for inspired writers—and Divine Caroline is a great place to tell your personal experiences.
So follow your dream. I’m always open to people asking me advice or trying to steer them in the right direction. I love what I do. It took me a long time to figure out how to make the shoe fit, so to speak—but when it does, it’s magic.
Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.