Winemaker  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotEnology is the science of wines and winemaking. Viticulture is the cultivation of grapes, especially for winemaking. Winemakers have to have a nose for both.

"Winemakers are entirely responsible for taking the grapes, crushing them, pressing them, fermenting them, turning the juice into wine and making sure the wine stays stable by performing certain stability tests. Then they're responsible for bottling the wine. A winemaker takes it all the way from the grape to the bottle," explains winemaker Tim Peters.

dotWinemakers may perform the following tasks:

  • Working closely with the growers
  • Conducting laboratory tests to monitor the progress of grapes
  • Determining the correct time for harvesting
  • Organizing the crushing, pressing and settling of juice
  • Supervising the fermentation of grape material and the filtering of wine
  • Placing wine in tanks for maturation
  • Preparing plans for bottling wine and ensuring that quality is maintained

"Winemakers are very highly regarded and border on celebrity status. The reality is that winemakers are more like chemists practicing an inexact science requiring a lot of practical experience," says winemaker Earl Ault.

"Being basically an agricultural product, a lot of winemaking takes place in the vineyard."

dotA great deal of chemical analysis goes on in winemaking. Grapes are tested from the minute they enter the winery until the wine is bottled.

"We measure acid; sulfur dioxide and sulfite levels; free and total sulfur; sugar levels; and whether or not there's bacteria present," says winemaker Bill Crawford. "If you're real good in general chemistry in high school, you'll have a pretty good handle on most of it."

dotWhat makes juice turn into wine? Deprived of oxygen, yeast converts sugar and water to alcohol and carbon dioxide. This reaction, the way in which yeast obtains energy for growth and reproduction, is the basis of all winemaking.

dotWinemakers who work in large wineries may be in charge of just the technical side of the business. Those in small wineries may be responsible for the entire winemaking process.

dotWinemaking is seasonal, with the spring and fall being extremely busy. In the spring, wines are bottled and extra care has to be taken due to frosts. In the fall, grapes are harvested.

"Once harvest starts, we work 16 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week for 12 weeks. It depends on your level of responsibility. Those who are responsible for the product all the way through tend to work the most," says Crawford.

At a Glance

Cultivate, test, grow and crush grapes

  • There's a lot of chemical analysis in this career
  • This is seasonal work
  • A degree in enology and viticulture is a great education base