FAQ: What Is a Wine Broker? (Plus Skills, Duties and Salary)
A wine broker sells products from a winery, wine shop or vineyard by offering customers samples of wine or grapes and using marketing tactics. Wineries and vineyards typically sell their products to places like stores, restaurants or hotels, and they may hire wine brokers to do this job for them. If you're interested in pursuing this career, then it may be helpful to learn more about being a wine broker. In this article, we define what a wine broker is, explain what skills they have, list their job duties, describe where they work and reveal the average salary they earn.
What is a wine broker?
A wine broker is a skilled professional who sells shipments of wine to customers such as retailers, restaurants or hotels. They often sell wine on behalf of a winery or vineyard and function as a point of contact between a wine business and its customers. Wine brokers may work with one specific company or they may be a freelancer who sells wine from several wineries. In order to make sales consistently, wine brokers have extensive knowledge of wine, which helps them answer customer questions effectively.
Wine brokers often focus on developing positive relationships with the winery or vineyard they work for, as well as with their potential customers. To encourage customers to purchase their products, a wine broker might give presentations on the wine, host events or give tours of a winery or vineyard. They may also make recommendations to customers and negotiate prices and contracts. Since they're a type of sales representative, wine brokers may receive a commission for the sales that they make.
Read more: 15 Jobs in the Wine Industry
What are wine broker skills?
There are many skills that a wine broker has, such as:
Knowledge of wine
In order to be successful sales representatives, wine brokers develop an advanced knowledge of wine, learning how the winery makes the wine, what grapes it uses and the differences between various wines. Unless the customer already knows exactly what they want, the wine broker may also make wine suggestions. For example, a broker could recommend which wines pair well with dishes on a restaurant's menu. Wine brokers typically use industry terms to describe how wines feel, taste and look.
Wine brokers frequently interact with customers, so it's helpful for them to develop customer service skills. They provide support to customers by answering questions, addressing concerns and solving any problems. Wine brokers may also use their customer services skills to ensure customers have a positive experience with their company, which may encourage them to make additional purchases in the future.
Negotiation refers to being able to communicate with a person or group of people to reach a common agreement concerning a deal, contract or proposal. Wine brokers often use their negotiation skills to establish contracts between a winery and a customer. For example, they may have to negotiate the terms of the contract or the selling price of the wine. Wine brokers typically seek to reach an agreement that satisfies both the customer and the winery.
Wine brokers use communication to clearly convey messages to both the customers and their employer. Wine brokers use these skills to talk about wine in a way that's accessible and easy for customers to understand. To do this, they may adjust the vocabulary they use to talk about wine and explain industry terms to help customers understand clearly. Wine brokers also report back to their employer, which can require effective communication skills. For example, they might discuss sales and marketing tactics or the sales that they made with the winery.
What education or training do you need to be a wine broker?
To become a wine broker, you may consider earning a bachelor's degree in subjects like business, marketing, public relations or food science. In these majors, you typically learn about business models and sales tactics, which can help you sell wine. Formal education isn't necessarily a requirement for wine brokers, but it may increase your chances of receiving a job and receiving a higher salary than a candidate without a degree.
While some employers may not ask candidates to have a license, others may require you to have a liquor license since you're handling and selling alcohol. You can research wineries and wine shops that you're interested in working for to determine if you need a license to work there. You may also consider seeking training related to wine to help you prepare for the position. To learn about wine, you can enroll in classes led by professional associations or attend wine tasting events.
What are the job duties of a wine broker?
Wine brokers have a variety of job duties, such as:
Meeting with clients
A large component of being a wine broker is meeting with clients. They might meet customers individually or in groups to promote wine, answer questions or make a deal. The purpose of meeting with clients is to use sales and marketing tactics to convince them to make a purchase from their winery. Wine brokers may bring samples to meetings so customers can taste the wine before signing a contract.
Wine brokers also plan and host events to promote and sell wine. For example, they may plan and lead winery tours, private tasting events or wine dinners. Wine brokers host these events to meet and network with potential buyers. They may also socialize with past customers to maintain their professional relationships and encourage them to renew their contracts with the winery.
Aside from meeting with customers, wine brokers often track inventory. They may need to know how much wine their winery currently has before trying to sell to a customer. This helps ensure they only sell wine that the company has in stock. Wine brokers also track the winery's inventory so if a customer asks about a certain type of wine, then they can tell them whether it's available.
Where can a wine broker work?
Typically, wine brokers work for wineries, wine shops or vineyards. They may also work at a brokerage firm, which is a company that connects brokers to different jobs. For example, a brokerage firm might find a winery with an open wine broker position and offer that position to a contracted wine broker. Wine brokers may also work as freelancers, meaning they work with a variety of businesses and may work for many wineries at once.
How much do wine brokers typically earn?
The national average salary for a wine consultant, which may include wine brokers, is $33,807 per year. Salaries for this job may vary depending on many factors, including the location of the job, the size of the company and the level of experience or education that the wine broker has. Wine brokers may also earn commissions, which could enhance their overall earnings. For example, a wine broker working for a larger winery that has more capital may make more than a wine broker working for a small winery.
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