To anyone out there looking at setting up a fruit winery or making fruit wines on a commercial basis, there are many issues to deal with and be up to date on. In this blog, I will periodically post some of these subjects online for the general good of the industry. I am in the process of writing an industry manual specific to fruit wines and will have that available in the near future.
My first submission is on how to select a commercial fruit winemaker. These same guidelines are also good tips for someone aspiring to become a fruit winemaker.
Here it goes…
Selecting a winemaker, especially one that has good fruit winemaking experience is not an easy task. Most operators will probably wish and need to do most of the winemaking themselves but will need the help of either a full time, part-time or at least consultant winemaker depending on the size of their operation.
The following describes the basic job of a winemaker (either owner/operator or hired winemaker):
Winemaking is not simply a question of mixing fermented fruit until it tastes good. A good wine starts with the planting and tending of the fruit orchard.
A winemaker often has to wear many “hats” and the job is varied. So any winemaker needs to be able to be flexible and have ability to multi-task.
A winemaker should be able to ensure that the farm has achieved the right quality of fruit in the orchard. Making the wine in the cellar and marketing the wines locally and internationally is also part of the job.
The average day will be spent doing a combination of fieldwork as well as controlling the fermentation process or other winemaking procedure, as well as seeing to the administration and management of the cellar.
A good part of the time will also be in contact with people in regards to selling wine in the store, promoting and introducing the range of wines to clients, buyers and friends.
Winemakers need to be passionate about all aspects of the wine industry, enjoy drinking the wine they have produced and be open to wine styles that they may not necessarily be accustomed to drinking. Being open to criticism and the ability to produce a wine that the public will like (not only what you like) is very important.
Winemaking is a way of living, not a job. To be successful the winemaker must have a real love of everything to do with winemaking.
The winemaker will be working as part of a team and must enjoy working with people and be able to communicate at all levels.
The winemaker needs to be scientifically, analytically and mechanically minded as well as a people person with lots of creative abilities. Being slightly eccentric or outgoing may also help as winemakers are often linked to the brand or product by the public and the winemaker often must conduct public relations duties.
Most winemakers should at least have some formal wine education either at the college level or University. There are several colleges in Canada that offer wine education. There is even long distance education available that the owner/operator could conduct at their own pace.
Hired winemakers should have a diploma in Cellar Technology or a B.Sc. in Microbiology or Oenology. Some winemakers rely on gaining a lot of hands-on experience in grape growing and winemaking areas so many winemakers have traveled extensively in wine producing regions of the world.
There are plenty of opportunities for travel in this job. Most winemakers are also responsible for marketing the wines and can spend a considerable amount of time traveling to establish a market. Many owner/operators and winemakers visit the established wine markets all over the world and also investigate new and emerging markets. This obviously depends on the wineries budget, marketing and distribution philosophy and size.
Good winemakers are much in demand, as the industry is experiencing a shortage of these skilled men and women.
The following is what the owner should be looking for in a winemaker prior to hiring an individual:
- Person’s educational background.
- Past winemaking experience.
- Does he or she have a perfect understanding of the whole fruit winemaking process from fruit growing to production to selling?
- Any wine awards won at any other wineries?
- Can the winemaker provide samples of wines that he or she has made commercially before?
- Does the winemaker have any wine sales experience or provide good leads or contacts for wine sales?
- Does he or she have any good contacts wine industry suppliers, distribution or media?
- Is he or she a people person? Outgoing? Creative? Cooperative? Would he or she be a good public relations asset?
If a winemaker is not needed due to budget constraints or small size of the operation, the owner/operator does need to take a good look at himself to make sure he or she has most of the qualities outlined above before embarking in a winery venture. This will ensure greater chances of success in the future.
Let me know if you found this informative!