How to Be a Wine Sales Rep

Three Parts:Doing Your HomeworkGetting HiredDoing the Job

It should go without saying that in order to be a successful wine sales representative, you should love discussing, handling, learning about, and drinking wine. Almost as obvious is the fact that you should have good sales skills, as well. Wine sales reps sometimes must work very hard to succeed, and they often have numerous duties they must perform as part of the job. But for those with a passion for wine, getting paid to be immersed in wine culture makes the hard work worth it.

Part 1
Doing Your Homework

  1. Image titled Be a Wine Sales Rep Step 1
    Read about wine. In order to be a successful wine sales rep, you need to learn all you can about wine. Read up on the different sources and fermentation processes associated with various types of wine, and learn about the vintages and pairings that people tend to prefer. Pay special attention to local wines, if this exists in your area.
    • Subscribe to periodicals like “Wine Spectator” and “Decanter” to keep up with current trends in wine. Wine magazines such as these feature reviews from established critics, interviews with wine makers and restaurateurs, trends in wine making, and “best of” lists that highlight popular vintages to look for.[1]
    • Books that survey the wine world can also be great sources of information. For instance, “The Oxford Companion to Wine” is a respected authority on just about everything related to wines, wine making, regional variants, grape varieties, and more.[2]
  2. Image titled Be a Wine Sales Rep Step 2
    Join a tasting group. By joining a tasting group, you will have the opportunity to expose yourself to wines from different regions on a regular basis and find out how they are made. Tastings can also be a good place to learn about which wines pair well with which foods. You can find a tasting group near you by searching online[3]
    • Take advantage of your tasting meetings by asking as many questions as possible of the hosts. This is a great way to learn some insider facts about the wines and wineries you come into contact with. Distribute business cards to winery managers or hosts; these individuals could become professional contacts later on.
    • Take a notebook with you on tasting tours so you can record your impressions and things you learn throughout the experience. Do not do this if your tasting guide states that it is not allowed.
  3. Image titled Be a Wine Sales Rep Step 3
    Visit local wine stores and restaurants. On your store visits, take the time to find out what they stock. In restaurants, examine their wine lists and ask your server for details about those you are unfamiliar with. You can learn a lot by understanding what is on a wine list and why.
    • Purchase a range of wine varieties at a range of price points. As a wine sales rep, you will be selling wines of every caliber and should become knowledgeable on cheap wines, as well as the rare and expensive ones.
    • Take note of which types of wines are commonly found with specific restaurant themes. You might even want to create a spreadsheet so you can easily cross-reference wine types and see what food styles they tend to go with.
  4. Image titled Be a Wine Sales Rep Step 4
    Take classes. Unless you already have a degree in viniculture or a related subject, enroll in classes at your local community college on subjects relevant to wine and winemaking. While not all colleges offer classes on these topics, many do. These classes tend to be popular with adult hobbyists, so they are often offered at night and on the weekends. Check with your local college for options.[4]
    • These classes can provide you with fundamental knowledge about winemaking culture and the processes behind growing grapes and producing wine. Even if you know a great deal already about wine flavors and vintages, you will benefit as a wine sales rep by understanding the work that goes into producing the wines you sell.
    • If you do not live near a college offering viniculture classes or can't fit them into your schedule, look into online course options. Many of these are available through colleges and universities, but can also be found on the Viticulture and Enology Science and Technology Alliance (VESTA) website.[5]
  5. Image titled Be a Wine Sales Rep Step 5
    Gain experience in the field. Many wine sales rep jobs require a couple of years of experience selling wine in a specific market. While knowledge of wine is important, you should also be able to navigate the network of restaurateurs and distributors in your region. It is immensely helpful to have hands-on experience in the industry when seeking and filling a wine sales rep position.
    • To get an entry level wine rep job, experience in the restaurant industry can help - whether as a manager, server, or bartender. You might also seek positions at wineries, even if they are not related to wine sales. Working at a wine shop is also a good way to get a feel for how the business works as you build your knowledge of wine culture.
    • Working in the industry in some capacity before transitioning to wine sales rep is also a great way to build relationships with potential future customers and get to know your region's big players.

Part 2
Getting Hired

  1. Image titled Be a Wine Sales Rep Step 6
    Meet the basic requirements for the job. As with most careers, there are certain qualifications you must meet in order to be a wine sales rep. Many of these are not so much prerequisites for being hired, but qualities or traits you should possess in order to succeed. Examples include:[6]
    • Possession of a valid driver's license and clean driving record. This is often required because wine sales reps must travel frequently (to and from restaurants and wineries, for example) in the course of their normal work.
    • Ideally, you should be able to lift about 50 pounds (or about 23 kg) so you can easily tote around boxes and crates of wine when necessary. Alternatively, you should have some other means of doing this.
    • A wine sales rep should be self-motivated, enthusiastic, and outgoing. If you do not enjoy schmoozing and working with people, you probably will not enjoy a career as a wine sales rep. You will need to build relationships in order to make sales and earn commission.[7]
  2. Image titled Be a Wine Sales Rep Step 7
    Get in touch with industry contacts. If you have been working in the wine industry already (at a winery, bar, restaurant, or wine shop), you should have a few contacts that can put you in touch with people looking to hire wine reps. Reach out to your contacts to ask about job opportunities instead of waiting to hear of something. For example:
    • Speak to a current wine rep who serves the restaurant, bar, or shop where you work.
    • Ask the manager of the winery where you work if he can set you up with an interview as soon as a wine rep position comes available.
    • Contact the wine distributor who sells your winery's product to restaurants and stores.
  3. Image titled Be a Wine Sales Rep Step 8
    Search online job boards. Many wine distributors and producers advertise job openings on mainstream job search engines such as Indeed, Monster, Glassdoor, etc. Create a profile on one or more of these sites and use keyword searches and location filters to see if there are any wine sales rep openings in your area.
    • Use fairly broad search terms so you are sure to see all relevant positions. For example, instead of searching for "wine sales rep," try just searching "wine."
    • Upload a resume to your profile and make it visible to employers. This will open up the possibility of a recruiter contacting you directly if they think your goals and qualifications are suitable for their available position.
  4. Image titled Be a Wine Sales Rep Step 9
    Follow up on job leads in person. The wine sales rep world revolves around interpersonal relationships and face-to-face interaction. Show up to the winery or distribution office you'd like to work for and ask to speak to the manager about employment opportunities. This will create a much better impression on your potential boss than an email or job application form ever could.
    • Practice your sales technique by selling yourself to the people who might hire you. They want to see that the people who represent them to their clients are competent and likable. Convince them that you are the right person to do the job.
    • Always bring a resume and business cards with you when visiting a potential employer. If you are not able to meet with the manager in person, leave the resume with a secretary or assistant. Some wine sales reps must have specific education and experience in order to be hired, so show them you are qualified right off the bat.
  5. Image titled Be a Wine Sales Rep Step 10
    Practice your interviewing skills. If you are called for an interview, prepare by thinking about how you want to present yourself to the interviewers. Since you are applying to be a salesperson, it is important to show that you are personable, articulate, and knowledgeable about the product you will be selling.
    • Study the wines sold by the company you want to work for. You could very well be quizzed on specific details about the wines you would be selling, so you should go into the interview with as much knowledge as possible.
    • Brush up on details about the company you are interviewing with. Things to know include the name of the owner(s) and CEO/president, the year the company started, its general product line (including grape varieties and significant vintages), and who its major local clients are.

Part 3
Doing the Job

  1. Image titled Be a Wine Sales Rep Step 11
    Make sales calls. As a sales person, a large part of your job will be making cold calls to restaurateurs and other potential clients to maintain steady business. A network of repeat customers takes time to build, so at first you may have to make unsolicited phone calls (and visits) to restaurants in order to break into the market.
    • Most of the time, actual sales will take place during in-person meetings. Sales calls function to keep existing clients well-stocked on their wine supply and to set up meetings with potential new clients.[8]
    • You may find that some clients are difficult to get in touch with over the phone. For this and other reasons, it is usually better to visit restaurants and stores in person to speak to the decision makers face-to-face.
  2. Image titled Be a Wine Sales Rep Step 12
    Organize promotional events. If you work as a sales rep for a specific winery, then a big part of your job is to market that winery's brand. Promotional events can be particularly effective ways of doing this and attracting new customers. Promotions can be held at wine and liquor stores, at restaurants, or at events such as festivals. Note that depending upon the event and location, special permits and permissions may be required in order to promote alcoholic beverages.
    • Research exists to show the sorts of promotions that tend to be most effective in promoting wine sales. In general, offering specific recommendations and free tastings appear to be the most effective strategies for boosting sales.[9]
    • If you work for a wine distributor, your promotional deals are more likely to involve discounted bulk purchases for restaurant or liquor store clients.
  3. Image titled Be a Wine Sales Rep Step 13
    Organize and lead wine tastings. This job task might be performed as part of a winery tour (if you are a sales rep for a specific brand) or as a special event at a restaurant, wine bar, or retail store. Such events are usually not led by inexperienced wine sales reps, as a great deal of knowledge and expertise is usually required to ensure that any patrons' questions can be adequately addressed.
    • Find out from your employer or senior wine sales reps at your company what is involved in organizing a wine tasting event.
    • Remember that the purpose of a tasting is to generate business. Do not be afraid to turn up the salesmanship where appropriate in order to win over customers.
  4. Image titled Be a Wine Sales Rep Step 14
    Educate restaurant servers. If you have restaurant clients, ask to set up training sessions with the wine servers there in order to teach them about the wines they will be selling to restaurant patrons and demonstrate proper serving techniques. You might also wish to go over the restaurant's menu with the servers and identify appropriate pairings.
    • This is something you should do as a wine sales rep regardless of your type of employer. Both winery and distributor reps sell to restaurants, so plan to conduct training sessions like these.
    • You will need to obtain permission from your employer and restaurant management before setting up a server training event. The client will likely need several weeks notice in order to put the word out to all of its servers and ensure high attendance.
  5. Image titled Be a Wine Sales Rep Step 15
    Create and distribute marketing materials. Some wine sales reps are in charge of their own marketing (to an extent). Requirements and restrictions will vary by employer, but the most common modern marketing technique for expanding brand recognition is the use of online tools such as social media. You should expect to maintain a constant online presence for your brand(s) in order to effectively take advantage of digital marketing.
    • Millennials currently account for a huge portion of wine market expansion, so individuals of that age group (people in their twenties or early thirties) are a valuable target for marketing strategies and campaigns. Data suggests that millennials can most easily and effectively be reached via social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, for example).[10]
    • If your employer provides you with a marketing budget, consider advertising on popular websites that are likely to see lots of traffic. These online ads can be effective, but you might have to coordinate with your company's advertising department (if applicable) to assist you with an undertaking like this.
    • Don't discount the value of advertising via traditional media. Flyers, billboards, and mail circulars may also be good ways to drum up business.


  • In the United States, you must be at least 21 years old to be a wine sales rep.
  • Speak to wine sales reps you know or can easily get in touch with about the specifics of the job and what they do or don't like about it.


  • Most wine sales reps work almost entirely on commission, so be prepared for fluctuating pay and a potentially small paycheck while you are still learning the ropes of the wine business.

Article Info

Categories: Sales Occupations