There are many opportunities to work in such a diverse field as the drinks industry. It is important that you gain the right qualifications to help you succeed.
This post gives a realistic insight into the realities & requirements of work in the major sectors of the drinks industry. These include Hotels, Bars, Restaurants & Retail & Trade Outlets. Within each of these categories there are many different levels depending on your ability, experience and of course qualifications.
Envious friends will imagine your life to be one long string of hedonistic parties and picture you as some sort of cross between Prince Harry, Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen. But in reality, you do not get paid to simply drink and have fun – far from it! While the work is exciting and sociable, the vast majority of your time will be spent working hard, putting in long hours and learning from extremely talented business people in a dynamic – but mostly sober – environment.
Variety is the spice of life. The industry needs its independents in a world where the large retailers tend to dominate. The good news about the independent sector of the drinks industry is that it has been a success story over the last few years in The UK. As this post describes, the enthusiasts who strike out on their own come from all walks of life.
Unlike becoming a pilot, a doctor or a tennis coach, the road to becoming an independent wine merchant is not obvious. A quick glance around the independent trade indicates that fewer and fewer find a traditional route into the industry, such as working for a merchant while a student or coming into it through family, and instead have made radical and surprising career changes. My fellow independent merchants are ex-bankers, actors, publishers and marketers that all have one thing in common: they were captivated by wine, and wanted to captivate others too.
The label on the wine is almost as important as the contents of the bottle. It is the public face of the wine and often the reason why the consumer decides to buy. Because of this the wine label designer has a crucial role and needs to know about the wine they are designing for. They will also need to know about legal requirements which have to be included on the label.
Winemakers often obsess over every miniscule detail in the vinification process as they bid to create the perfect wine that expresses the majesty of its terroir in devastating fashion. But all those months spent analysing the soil, giving the vines tender loving care and experimenting to the nth degree to arrive at a flawless blend simply go out the window if the label design is not up to scratch.
This is a quickly growing market, especially for the gin trade. Independent craft spirit producers have enjoyed a renaissance all over the world recently. In the UK this is especially the case. You will probably need a scientific background, a "good nose" and creativity. Attention to detail is also key.
The day to day work of a distiller is a blend of science and style, and is physically demanding work. A distiller applies the principles of chemistry, yeast physiology, and a vision of their house style to make detailed choices that inform the distillation process.
The cellar hand is vital for the smooth running of any winery. As a "Jack of all Trades" you will have to show physical strength and have the stamina to work tirelessly. However you will gain vital experience and learn the important processes of turning grapes into wine. This hands on work provides knowledge that cannot be learned from books or lectures.
It’s a physically demanding role. In my case, during a vintage in Australia I worked 12 hours a day for 6 days a week, on night-shift, arriving at 6pm to take over from those who had started at 6am.
But the experience was unbeatable. I made great friends, saw new parts of the world – what I learned and experienced has been completely invaluable and I’m still reaping the benefits now.
John’s Monthly Wine Recommendations- April
Champagne Bureau Masterclass at Sheffield Hallam University
Tasting a Pedro Ximénez 30+ Year Old Wine
John Hosts Champagne Bureau Masterclass
John’s Monthly Wine Recommendations: September