Erik Neilson on February 16, 2017 0 Comments At a certain point in some people’s lives, wine becomes more than a simple pleasure to cap off the day — it becomes a calling. This generally starts with a strong, vested interest in the origins and history of wine, which comes along with learning how to enjoy the beverage more thoroughly overall as a consumer. Then comes a turning point, where a person either chooses to be content with their knowledge and enjoyment of wine or take things one step further by learning how to make wine at home. Home winemaking is seen by most people who get into it as being a fun hobby and a way to potentially save money. For a small fraction of these individuals, however, it is the gateway into a new career path. Many people find that their interest in wine correlates with the ability to actually produce great wine, at which point it may seem like time to move into the industry and become a professional winemaker. If any of this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Becoming a winemaker is certainly a challenging endeavor and one that not everyone will succeed at, but it’s not impossible. Not sure where to start? Here are some tips to help you move forward in your quest to become a winemaker, no matter how pensive or nervous you may be to take the plunge. Make Your Own Wine at Home 1. Reevaluate Your Expectations It’s no secret that expectations can be enough to cripple a career, especially in its initial stages. Many amateur winemakers think that their ability to create a great product on a small scale is enough to break into the industry, but this couldn’t be further from the the truth. Becoming a professional winemaker requires a well-rounded skill set that not everyone has, such as business experience, the ability to scale recipes/techniques and more. Many of these skills can be learned and acquired, so hope is certainly not lost for those who haven’t quite gotten there yet. Knowing this ahead of time, however, is the key to managing your expectations and navigating the stages of becoming a professional winemaker. 2. Tackle the Business Aspects First As stated above, one of the most important factors of becoming a successful winemaker is being able to handle the business side of things before you even think about producing a single batch of wine. Being able to make great wine is one thing, but do you have the skills necessary for selling it? Accounting, marketing and business skills are crucial parts of the planning and administration process, and if you go in without these skills on your side, your chances of finding success will be quite low. Business administration isn’t for everyone, and if you don’t want to bother with it yourself, your best bet will be to work with a business partner who can take on these responsibilities. 3. Develop a Bulletproof Plan Once you’ve either gained the necessary knowledge yourself to handle the business aspects of your winery or have chosen a business partner to work with, it’s time to develop a plan for your winery. This is one of the most difficult parts of the process, chiefly because those who have not been in the industry for years upon years often don’t know where to start. Developing a plan can be done on one’s own, but the smartest way to go about doing so is to talk with as many local wineries and winemakers as possible to gain a sense of how they’ve found success. The wine world is a tight-knit community, and most people involved will be more than willing to share their knowledge without fear of competition. 4. Work at an Established Winery It can take many months if not years to go from start to finish in attempting to become a winemaker, especially if you have no industry experience. This can be a great time to get that experience, however, and taking this route will ensure better chances of success once it comes time to finally open your doors. As you search for a space, acquire capital and focus on every other step necessary for starting a winery, the rest of your time can be devoted to learning the tricks of the trade by working at an already established winery in your area. Note that this is actually one of the best ways to build connections within the industry, too, and the more you spend time learning, the more knowledge you’ll bring with you to your very own winery. 5. Refine Your Recipes The wines you’ve been making for years at home may be nearly perfect, but taking things into production is an entirely different ballgame. It’s important to consider whether or not your current home recipes are scalable. In other words, can you acquire the ingredients you’ll need in large amounts without spending a veritable fortune? Will the increase in batch size affect the overall quality and taste of the wine you’ve been making? These and many other questions are crucial to ask yourself, yet answering them can be a true challenge. If you’ve built friendships with anyone in the wine world, however, you may be able to ask for advice about how to take the recipes that have been working with you to the next level. It’s easy to think that the idea of being a winemaker for a living is nothing more than a pipe dream, but there are countless individuals throughout the world who have made and are currently making careers for themselves in wine. Put together a solid plan, make your moves carefully and get the experience you need to make things happen. Experience in the industry prior to opening a winery will help you in all of these regards, even if you’re just helping out at an established winery part-time. The fewer questions you have about how to move forward once it finally comes time to open your winery, the more likely it is that you’ll find the success you’re looking for.