So You Want to be a Winemaker?
Career Advice from 100+ Noted Women Winemakers Globally

Prepared by Professors Lucia and Jack Gilbert
Santa Clara University

(Revised July 2018)

Becoming a winemaker involves falling in love with wine and discovering your natural gifts and passion. How does that happen? The paths and contexts may differ, but certain elements are in common. Serendipity, persistence, and being fascinated by smell and taste all play a part.

Themes that emerged in our one-on-one conversations are organized below into four separate sections: (i) initial questions to consider; (ii) what does it take and what to expect; (iii) characteristics of competent winemakers; and (iv) additional advice for young women. It should be noted that overall there was a high degree of consistency across responses in the themes identified.

Section I: Some initial questions to consider.
We begin with two initial questions as a way of self-reflection. We posed these same two questions to the women winemakers with whom we spoke. And we pose these same two questions to you!

"When did you know you loved wine?"
"Do you have access to a professional network that can support and guide you?"

Section II: What does it take and what to expect?
This section describes experiences that are viewed as necessary or highly recommended by the women with whom we spoke.

1. Education is important.
A clear theme was that a science background and a degree in a relevant area of science is important, preferably a degree in enology and viticulture.

2. Experience is multifaceted and includes working harvests, cellar work, and lab work.

3. A strong work ethic is crucial.
Work ethic was noted as crucial. Winemaking is not an "8 to 5" job, and a "can-do" attitude and persistence were mentioned as particularly important.

4. Networking is important.
The importance of networking was emphasized in our conversations with women winemakers.

5. Mentors are important.
Having a mentor is important.

6. What one brings in the way of personal qualities is also crucial. The seven personal qualities mentioned most often are those listed below.

7. Vision, Focus, Determination, and Persistence are absolutely crucial.
All the winemakers we spoke with emphasized the importance of having a vision and the determination for where you want to go and identifying the strengths you have to get you there.

8. Do Not Stay Too Long.
It is possible to stay in the same position too long.

9. Home and Work.
Deciding how best to integrate work and family is a common issue for women and men. It is a normative issue of adult life.

10. Roadblocks are always encountered and need to be recognized as such.
A clear theme in the advice we heard is that there are always roadblocks that need to be navigated.

Section III: Characteristics of competent winemakers.
When asked to describe "competent winemakers," there was a good deal of consensus in responses with regard to helpful personal qualities. Twenty characteristics are listed below, although very few, if any, individuals possess ALL these characteristics. Most of the esteemed winemakers with whom we talked thought they possessed about half, although without exception they all described themselves as hard-working and determined, facile at blending science and art, flexible, and self-confident. Confidence was seen as especially important.

Key characteristics that describe successful/competent winemakers include the following (listed in alphabetical order):

Section IV: Additional career advice for young women.
The opportunity structure for wine makers varies with the times. For example, the few women who graduated from UC Davis in the late 1970s entered the field during a time of explosive growth, and this worked in their favor despite obstacles at that time to hiring women. There are more opportunities for today's winemakers in those regions in the U.S and abroad where the wine industry is growing. Below is some specific additional advice.

In short, what is needed in becoming a competent winemaker is a science background, a creative mind, a supportive environment at home and work, experience - and a love of wine. All are crucial. A strong work ethic, a desire to learn, and taking initiative are important, as are mentors, loving your work, and being true to your beliefs. Finally, one needs opportunity.

Bonne Chance! Buona Fortuna! Buena Suerta!
We ALL wish you well!

Lucia and Jack Gilbert

Updated Posting July 2018