How Do I Become a Wine Broker?

Jeremy Laukkonen

In order to become a wine broker, you first need to have an extensive knowledge of wine and the ability to close sales. Some wine brokers work independently, while others are sales representatives for distributorships, so there are a few different ways to start this type of career. If your background knowledge in the subject of wine is lacking, then the first step is to attend some wine tastings, take classes, and study relevant reference books. After you feel comfortable with your knowledge level, you either need to cultivate relationships with area wineries, or apply to work for a distributor. The final step to become a wine broker is to familiarize yourself with the local business community, forming relationships with grocery stores, restaurants, bars, and other potential buyers.

Sparkling wine.
Sparkling wine.

Wine brokers are individuals who facilitate deals between wineries and retail establishments. Some wineries use distributors, in which case the same basic job is performed by employees typically known as sales representatives. In either case, it is the job of a broker or sales rep to convince retail establishments to carry wines produced by one or more client wineries.

Some wine brokers work as sales representatives on behalf of distributors.
Some wine brokers work as sales representatives on behalf of distributors.

Before you become a wine broker, you will need to determine if a license is necessary. The way that the transactions are handled, and whether you ever take legal possession of the wine, is sometimes used to determine if you need a license or not, but the rules vary from one location to another. If a license is required in your area, then you will need to take the necessary steps to obtain one before you can begin representing wineries.

The first step in any wine broker's career is typically to obtain a working knowledge of wine. If you are unfamiliar with the terminology, or do not know how to properly taste and assess wine, you may want to read up on the subject or take some classes. You may also find it useful to attend wine tastings in order to help develop your palate. Temporarily taking a job with a wine retailer, or even a winery, would be another option to cultivate a better understanding of the product. After you are secure in your knowledge of the subject, you can begin the next stage.

You then need to have good working relationships with some of the wineries in your area in order to successfully become a wine broker. This can typically be accomplished by visiting local wineries and introducing yourself, though it can also helpful to attend events such as wine tastings. You will also need to cultivate relationships with local retail establishments in order to sell wines produced by your clients.

Some wine brokers work independently, though there are also independent wine brokerages, large distributors, and everything in between. If you have a sales background, and can demonstrate a strong knowledge of wine, then you can try to find work with one of these types of businesses. That is often an easier way to become a wine broker, since you will typically be provided with training. The brokerage or distributor may also help introduce you to local wineries and retail establishments, allowing you to quickly build a client base.

Wine brokers need good working relationships with wineries in their area.
Wine brokers need good working relationships with wineries in their area.

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