Words by Sophia Longhi
The wine industry can seem impenetrable to people who don’t work in the sector, but there are ways to find your way in – even if you’re not quite ready to quit your day job… yet!
Set up a wine Instagram account
An Instagram account is a great way to journal your wine discoveries. It’s also an amazing tool for plugging into what’s happening in the industry. Like most social media platforms, Instagram gives you the opportunity to interact directly with the high flyers of the wine trade – Masters of Wine, winemakers, sommeliers, authors, journalists – as well as everyday wine enthusiasts like yourself, so get interacting and become part of the online wine community.
Start a wine blog
You can set up a blog on WordPress or Squarespace for free and start writing about wine. Put as much time and effort into your articles as you would if you were writing for Decanter or Wine Spectator and then use social platforms like Instagram and Twitter to share your articles to get a wider reach. It might feel at times like your blogs are going out into the ether and that no one is reading them, but keep going and keep sharing. Your genuine passion will be appreciated. Soon, you will have a body of work that shows your commitment to writing about wine. It’s a good idea to inform marketing teams at wineries and PR companies for wine brands that your blog exists, so just reach out and introduce yourself, linking to your blog.
Write for an established publication or blog
If setting up your own blog from scratch sounds like too much work, why don’t you check out some established wine blogs to see if they need an extra writer? It probably won’t be a paid position. Still, if they are an established blog, they will probably be inundated with free samples, which will come your way if they need reviewing. Samples are amazing for tasting practice! You might not be growing your own blog site, but you will be getting your name out there whilst enjoying a few perks (like wine and entry to trade tastings and events) along the way.
Take your WSETs
WSETs refer to wine certifications from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and are globally recognised qualifications in wine. You don’t need any professional (or unprofessional) experience in wine to take your WSET Level 1 – this is usually a day-long course. You can do this online or at an accredited venue. You don’t even have to be in the wine industry to work your way up to the WSET Diploma level, a highly respected level of study inside and outside of the trade. As well as achieving a status of wine knowledge (with the certificate and pin to prove it!), doing an in-person course is a great opportunity to meet people in the wine trade and network.
Do some work in a wine shop or bar*
If you’re a freelancer, it might be an option to do some part-time work in a wine bar or shop (or if you’re not a freelancer and you’re prepared to give up your Saturdays). This is truly one of the best ways to get into the trade straight away and learn all kinds of skills, from serving to ordering. It’s really eye-opening to see the consumer from the other side and find out about what sells and what doesn’t, preferences, profit margins and where the real value is when it comes to wine regions and styles. The opportunities to expand your wine expertise are endless, and you get to learn about all kinds of wines very quickly, especially when you have to memorise your list.
*Why not go one step further and do some work in a winery or vineyard to really learn about wine from the inside out?
Host your own wine tastings
Anyone can put on an event, so why not start hosting your own wine tastings? You could start small by hosting them for friends at their houses, then progress to hosting them in wine bars and other event spaces. As you get more confident, you can start selling tickets for them through Eventbrite, Facebook or your own website – and before you know it, you work in wine!
In every industry, the old adage is true: ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’ Buy tickets to trade tastings and wine events and talk to people. But, you know – it is also what you know. Whatever industry you’re currently in (even if you’re not in one), think about the skills you already have. How can they be valuable to someone in the wine business? Perhaps you work in marketing or business consultancy or finance or design. Whatever you do, your skills are needed somewhere in wine! Get on LinkedIn, start networking and get yourself out there!
Sophia Longhi runs a wine blog at www.skinandpulp.com and has done all of the above to get her foot in the door of the wine industry. Connect with her on Instagram at @skinandpulp and catch one of her #WednesdayWineWomen weekly Insta Lives.