Expert Insights On How to Enter the Wine Industry

Derek Sable “can’t underestimate how important passion is in getting into this business.” Photo courtesy of ForceBrands.

This article originally appeared on Wine Enthusiast and ForceBrands as part of their monthly series ForceBrands Decanter: Opening Up the Conversation.

Derek Sable is a Digital Sales Strategist at ForceBrands who assists clients with the firm’s online job boards and comprehensive range of services. A true wine enthusiast with a deep knowledge of the industry’s hiring standards, Derek shares what it takes to launch a career in the wine world. Read on to learn more.

ForceBrands: Aside from having a passion for the industry, what are some of the key qualifications candidates should possess if they’re looking to start a career in the wine world?
Derek Sable: I can’t underestimate how important passion is in getting into this business—it is amazing how many stories you hear from industry veterans talking about their career who say, “I was unhappy with my current job and wanted to make a change—I wanted to take my passion [wine] into a career,” and go on to become managers and directors of companies in the space. It does start with pure passion more than anything else, but that alone isn’t enough to guarantee you’ll land your dream wine job. Getting into the wine industry comes down to knowing how it works—knowledge is power. In order to understand the key entry points where you can start your career, you need to understand the three-tier distribution system and what it takes to get wine from the vine to the glass.

FB: What are some of the best entry roles for getting into the industry?
DS: Candidates should start by first deciding whether they prefer to work for the team behind the wines (a supplier) or for those who go out and sell it for consumers to enjoy (wholesalers). I recommend looking into sales and marketing roles, which are the most common entry points for those without experience to enter the field. In my role working closely with our industry-specific job board, BevForce, I’ve seen a constant demand for Brand Ambassadors and Sales Representatives—both great entry-level roles. Sales Representatives are tasked with increasing the overall velocity and revenue of a company and handling the on-premise or off-premise accounts that buy the wine. Brand Ambassadors, while similar in nature to Sales Representatives, tend to be more focused on marketing efforts with the goal to create engagement between the brands, the consumers, and the buyers. Hiring managers look for passion, drive, organization, and personality among these candidates.

FB: As the industry changes and evolves, have you seen any newer roles take shape?
DS: As the competition for wine consumer attention increases, we have also seen the emergence of experiential marketing companies, which is a whole other company that allows for opportunities to start a career in wine.

FB: Wine has undergone a transition in recent decades—with storytelling playing a much larger role in overall brand building. Can you speak to this a bit more and how it’s changing the hiring game?
DS: Wine is a business built on history and storytelling. People are constantly looking to know more about the wines out there. Any career that you are looking to pursue in wine will rely upon your continued eagerness to leverage those stories of the people behind the brands in order to properly represent the hard work that goes into making and selling the wine.

FB: What advice would you share with job seekers on how to make their candidacy stand out among the competition?
DS: It’s so important to recognize the changing culture in the wine world. There are new brands entering the market on a daily basis and the barriers to entry are decreasing daily. Brands are taking on more of a startup culture and looking for employees who have the right personality and work ethic above all else. When you combine that passion for wine with the drive to succeed, make sure that resonates with employers. This is especially important if you are coming from outside the industry. Many employers looking for junior-level roles also mention a jadedness that many veterans have from being used to a certain way of selling, so there are a ton of companies that are looking to redefine what the responsibilities of those core roles are and return to a more energetic, get-it-done mentality. In other words, have a genuine enthusiasm for the industry and an impressive work ethic because it’s a fantastic time to join the wine industry—and that’s more than enough to be excited about.