For the analytical person who doesn’t mind getting their hands dirty (or stained a little purple), being a Wine Enologist might be the job for you. We interviewed Lillian Gresset, the enologist at Corliss Estates in eastern Washington about oenology and being an enologist.
If you have a knack for science and biology (and you love wine) then enologist is a dream job!
Awesome Wine Job: Enologist
What exactly is an enologist?
An enologist is someone who is responsible for everything having to do with the science (chemistry and biology) of the wine. Their responsibilities vary a lot from winery to winery depending on the winery size, wines produced, and needs of the winery.
Enologists start at $30,000+
Most make $50k – $80k a year.
Depends on experience and size of winery etc.
You get to live close to a winery/vineyard
Your work varies day-to-day
Usually their main job is to run a laboratory and do analysis on the wine/juice. The results of these analyses are then used by the winemaker to assist in making decisions on how to treat the wine or juice. One of the most important things these analyses are used for is to monitor the wine for flaws and spoilage and to catch a problem and treat it before it becomes an issue.
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There are characteristics of the wine (e.g. nutrient levels, acid levels, sugar levels, spoilage, microbial activity) that we cannot see, taste, or smell. Testing the levels of these components is very important so they can be corrected or kept where they need to be. The enologist monitors the wine at bottling time making sure proper sanitation takes place so that the wine temperature and microbially stable post bottling. During harvest the enologist monitors sugar and acid levels which helps the winemaker in making the decision as to when to pick the grapes.
Who is the perfect person for this job?
Being an enologist is great for people who love science and love wine! Working at a smaller winery usually allows you to do other things, not just lab work all the time, so it’s a great job for people who prefer not to get stuck doing the same thing all day, every day. There is also a great variation in the workload and type of work from season to season. It keeps things interesting. And, of course, being analytical and a problem solver is helpful. Patience is also important because there are so many variables in wine chemistry and each wine will react differently. Sometimes it can be difficult to understand what/why the wine is behaving a certain way.
Do you need to have a good nose to do your job?
In a winery, you are producing a product that ultimately needs to taste and smell good. You can run analysis all day, but if the wine doesn’t taste and smell good, there is really no point.
What is your day-to-day like?
My day can be so different from week-to-week, month-to-month. I work with a small group of people and we usually have a talk in the morning about what needs to get done and how we are going to do it. Sometimes I need to gather samples from tanks and barrels for various analyses and lab trials. Sometimes I’m doing maintenance on lab equipment. Sometimes I work in the cellar moving wine and cleaning equipment. Sometimes I’m giving winery tours and tastings. Sometimes I’m making additions to the wines. Sometimes I’m tasting wine and doing blending trials. During harvest things are a bit different. Things are moving very fast and days are long. There is daily fermentation management and sensory evaluation. The days where fruit is being processed there is a lot of setup and cleanup. Usually we have several harvest interns to help out.
What is your favorite part of the job?
For me, it’s great to be part of making something amazing. The combination of creativity and science keeps things interesting. And, of course, it is a great industry to be in. You are surrounded by great food, wine, and interesting people. It’s hard work, but very rewarding.
How to become an Enologist
Advice: It is most important to have a good foundation in chemistry and microbiology. Many enologists will also get a degree in Enology.
- Community College: There are quite a few community colleges that offer certificate programs in Viticulture and Enology. Some of these programs do a great job.
- University: There are a few universities who offer a B.S. in Enology and have Master’s and PhD programs. The university I attended had a fully operating winery where the students got to experience it all, from harvest to marketing the wine.
Most people who get into wine production like to take advantage of the fact that there are wine producing regions all over the world. It’s fun and educational to travel and work harvest at different wineries. That is a great way to get experience. You can learn a lot in school, but nothing can prepare you more than hands-on experience.