Exploring this Job

Part-time or summer employment at a winery is an excellent method of gaining an insight into the skills and temperament needed for this profession. A high school student also can explore opportunities in the field through discussions with professionals already working as enologists. Because some technical colleges offer evening and online courses in enology, it may be possible for a high school student to audit or take a course for future college credit. If you're age 21 or older, try making your own wine at home. Check out From Vines to Wines: The Complete Guide to Growing Grapes and Making Your Own Wine From Vines to Wines, by Jeff Cox, for advice.  

The Job

Enologists are involved in all aspects of wine production and therefore must have a thorough knowledge of the winemaking business. They analyze the quality of grapes, decide which vines are best to grow, determine when grapes are ripe enough to be picked, and coordinate the process of winemaking. Production decisions include which yeast or bacteria to use, at what temperature fermentation should occur, and how the wine should be aged.

Selection of the proper grapes is a vital part of an enologist's planning responsibilities. This selection process includes analyzing the varieties of grapes to determine which are best suited to grow in a specific area, given existing soil and climate conditions. For example, an enologist in California must ensure that grapes chosen to grow in that climate can withstand the heat of the summers, while an enologist in New York must ensure that grapes chosen can withstand the cooler temperatures there. Other factors that determine which type of grapes to grow include the desired flavor and aroma of wines and the species' ability to withstand disease.

Grapes that produce red wine are processed in a different way than grapes that produce white wine. Production methods also vary according to the size of the winery and the type of containers and stainless steel tanks used in the crushing and fermentation processes. Enologists have the final word in all of the production decisions. They consult with other winery staff about issues involving the testing and crushing of grapes, the cooling, filtering, and bottling of the wine, and the type of storage casks in which to place the wine. The enologist also researches and implements modifications in growing and production techniques to ensure the best quality product at the lowest cost. This involves keeping up with technological improvements in production methods and the ability to read and analyze a profit-and-loss statement and other parts of a balance sheet.

Enologists oversee personnel matters. They may hire and train employees such as vineyard and production workers, coordinate work schedules, and develop a salary structure. Good communication skills are needed to present written and oral reports.

Although bookkeeping, reporting to government agencies, and other administrative tasks often are delegated to an assistant, enologists must have an understanding of industry regulations, accounting, and mathematics. Production costs and other expenses must be carefully recorded. Because of the increased use of computers for recording composition and grape details, blending and production alternatives, and analyzing information, enologists should have some training in computer science.

An enologist sometimes is involved with decisions regarding the marketing of the finished product. Production, transportation, and distribution costs, the potential markets on the national and international level, and other factors must be calculated to determine the price of the finished wine and where the wine will be sold.