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Oenologist (Winemaker)


Description

Not everyone is a wine drinker. But those who are can be fanatical about it. They love to discuss wine, sample wine, and tour through wineries and vineyards, learning all they can about this ancient and revered beverage. People who are truly facisnated by wine, and who are intrigued not only by the taste but by the science of wine, often become enologists.

Enologists, also known as winemakers, are scientists who study enology - the science of wine and winemaking. They often work with wineries, as either a researcher/developer or as the head winemaker. They are the people who make wine, which is basically just grape juice and yeast. The yeast turns the sugar and water in the juice to alcohol and carbon dioxide. Enologists, of course, could explain this natural process in much more scientific terms. Often armed with a university degree in enology, these experts monitor the wine during each step of the process, from watching the grapes on the wine to monitoring the acid, sulfur dioxide, and sugar levels in the fermenting juice. They watch for bacteria, oxygen, and other factors that could damage the final product.

Enologists have sharp senses - their tastebuds and noses are keen and able. They taste each final product, ensuring it is of high quality, and represents their company. If they are the managers or owners of the winery they work with, they are also excellent business people - because even if your wine would suit Dionysius, if you don't have an advertising campaign, your grapes might as well have stayed on the vine.
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Enologists need to have an excellent sense of smell and taste, and should really enjoy drinking and savoring wine. They need to enjoy chemistry, and botany. They should be thoughtful and analytical, have a good descriptive vocabulary, and have the ability to observe things accurately, and have excellent interpersonal and communication skills. They should also have a sense for management, as well as finances and advertising.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Communicate regularly with the viticulturists (grape growers)
  • Conduct laboratory tests to monitor the grapes
  • Decide on the best time for harvesting
  • Oversee the crushing and pressing of the grapes
  • Monitor the settling of the juice
  • Oversee the fermentation and filtration process of the wine
  • Conduct lab tests to monitor the maturation of wine
  • Place wine in tanks or casks for maturation
  • Prepare plans for bottling wine
  • Supervise assistants
  • Manage sales, advertising, and marketing
  • Conduct winery tours
  • Enologists have many, many tasks. Depending on the season, they will be involved in harvesting, fermenting, or bottling the wine. They also must always keep financial records and regular reports on the scientific tests when monitoring the wine's progress. Enologists get to work outside during harvests, and during the growing stages when the grapes are closely watched. They travel to wine shows, wine contests, and to other vineyards and wineries, to learn about other techniques and traditions.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Enologists work at universities teaching enology, but the most common place you'll find enologists is at wineries. They may work at large wineries, smaller wineries, organic wineries, and specialty wineries (like ice wineries). They may own the winery, or work as the manager, or head winemaker. They work long hours during the harvest, and spend between 15 and 20 hours each day producing the product. Enologists at smaller wineries are more involved in the daily tasks.
  • They work alongside viticulturists, winemaking assistants, and spend each day either in the wine production rooms, the bottling rooms, or in offices.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Enologists can work as full-time winemakers or full-time enology professors, or become viticulturists, botanists, sommeliers, or environmental scientists. They can write books on wine, wine tasting, and the science of wine. They can also open do-it-yourself wine shops.
 

  Educational Paths  
It takes a good nose and sharp tastebuds to work as an enologist. It is possible to become an enologist through reading, talking to others, and practicing making wine on one's own, as well as getting a job with a winery, doing everything from picking grapes to running the machinery. However, those interested in a degree can enroll in one of the several enology and viticulture programs at universities across North America.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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