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How To Become A Wine Sales Rep

Do you want a job that lets you learn about wine, drink wine, and meet others who love wine? Then being a wine sales rep could be the perfect job for you!

A wine sales rep pouring red wine into a glass

Wine sales reps have the best of both worlds: they get to try/learn about a huge variety of wines and be part of the wine industry, but without needing the years of formal training required for a sommelier.

Being a wine rep also pays pretty well for an entry-level position, and there are always job openings in cities around the world.

I was a wine rep in my 20s and worked in the industry for a long time, so I wanted to compile what I’ve learned to help other aspiring wine reps get the job of their dreams. 

This article will go over how to get a job as a wine sales rep along with what to expect in terms of salary and helpful tips to succeed in the position. So let’s get right to it!

How To Find A Job As A Wine Sales Rep

Here are the three best ways to find a job as a wine rep:

1. The internet

As with most things in life, finding a wine rep job often starts with a simple Google. Just plug in “Wine rep jobs near me” and let the internet take it from there. In most cities, there will be openings for wine reps at larger distributers.

2. Ask a bar or restaurant

If you’re looking for a smaller distributer though, I would suggest going to an independent local restaurant or bar with a wine list you love, and asking what distributers they work with. The manager will likely be happy to tell you who sells them wine and who they like working with. 

3. Wine events

Another way to find a wine rep job is to start going to wine tastings and wine events near you.

This is how I found my first job as a wine rep — I was at a wine tasting and just started talking to a guy pouring Italian whites. I told him I wanted to work in the industry and just got back from living in France, and he pulled out the business card of a new French wine importer who lived in my city.

I’m not saying it’ll work out quite as seamlessly as I did for me, but you never know who you’ll meet at these tastings/events, and it never hurts to ask who they work for or if their companies are hiring!

How to Get Hired As A Wine Sales Rep

From my experience, the main things you need to prove in the interview are that you love wine, have a desire to learn more about wine, and have a base knowledge of wine. You also need to demonstrate that you have people skills and that you’ve had prior sale’s experience.

If you haven’t had sale experience though, don’t let that deter you! I had zero sales experience, but I am an outgoing people-person and was extremely passionate about the industry.

So before your interview: brush up on your wine knowledge and your social skills. It won’t guarantee you landing the job of course, but these are by far the most important qualities distributers look for in a wine rep.

How Much Does a Wine Sales Rep Make?

What you make will depend on the company, but there are three different types of pay you typically see as a wine rep:

  1. Base salary plus commission
  2. Only commission
  3. Only salary

I would say the first two are the most common, and you’ll rarely see only salary or hourly wage wine rep jobs. 

So your pay (if commission is part of it) will be based on a TON of factors: time of year, size of the company, the “territory” you sell in, price of the wines, how many events you do etc. Mostly though, it all ultimately comes down to how much wine you’re able to sell.

I personally had a base salary plus commission, and made as much as 50k/year at an extremely small and brand new company with a limited, super niche wine portfolio. This is pretty par for the course for the industry, and the majority of wine reps make between 40k-60k.

How To Succeed As A Wine Sales Rep

To succeed as a wine rep, you need these four things in your arsenal: 

1. A car

About 70% of the job is driving, so you’ll need a car that you can put some milage on. The amount of driving you do will also depend on your “Territory” (aka: the area you’re selling wine), but most territories cover at least one or two cities.

It just depends on the company and how much man power they have. Regardless, if you don’t like driving, this is probably not the job for you.

2. People skills

As with any sales position, people skills are probably the most important part of the job. You need to be able to connect with clients, feel out their needs, and set an appropriate tone.

Being able to read and understand people will be one of your greatest assets in this role. Every client is different — some are very professional while others might invite you to meet over a beer. If you can read a room and be personable, you’ll have a much easier time selling wine.

3. The ability and desire to learn all the things about wine

Aside from people skills, the most important thing when it comes to selling wine is knowing your stuff. I wasn’t a great “salesman” per se — I hate being pushy and trying to force a sale — but people liked me because I was fun, honest, and knowledgable about every wine I brought through their doors.

If you can explain why the wine, the region, or the winemaker is special, or how the wine would fit perfectly on their wine list because X, Y, and Z, they will be SO much more likely to buy from you or to plan an event with you.

Another part of knowing the wines is being able to parse out what wines are appropriate for what clients. Clients can range from country clubs to dive bars to high end restaurants to airport lounges.

Regardless of the client, you want to make sure you’re bringing them a) wines at a price point that makes sense for them and b) wines that make sense for their own clientele. 

For example, you probably won’t sell any high end Bordeaux at the seafood shack selling $8 shrimp plates, but you might be able to talk them into a cheap sauvignon blanc.

4. A good cooler

A lot of companies provide coolers for you, but…. mine didn’t. This means I ended up carting around a huge and very old beach cooler to all of my meetings. That thing was HEAVY and my back did not thank me. It also looked a little unprofessional — most other reps had sleek, rolling coolers. 

This is all to say that if I could do it over again, I would invest in a good cooler that didn’t require me to heave around 50 pounds of wine in and out of restaurants. So learn from my mistakes! A solid cooler is worth the investment and will make you look much more professional. 

The End

That about sums it up, friends! I hope this helped in your journey to becoming a wine rep and gave you some good tips. I also recommend reading a day in the life of a wine rep to give you a look into the day-to-day life of the job and more insight into the industry 🙂