Winemakers make wine from grapes and other fruit.
Cellar hands and assistant winemakers usually earn
$47K to $83K per year
Winemakers and chief winemakers usually earn
$89K-$211K per year
Source: New Zealand Wine, 2020.
Pay for winemakers varies depending on experience, the type of work they do and the size of the winery and its region.
- Unqualified cellar hands usually earn minimum wage or a little more.
- Qualified cellar hands usually earn from $47,000 to $52,000.
- Assistant winemakers usually earn from $60,000 to $83,000.
- Winemakers can earn between $89,000 and $136,000.
- Chief winemakers, who manage teams of winemakers, can earn between $144,000 and $211,000.
Winemakers who buy into wineries and vineyards can increase their income.
Source: New Zealand Wine, 2020.
- PAYE.net.nz website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Winemakers may do some or all of the following:
- discuss fruit quality and quantity with grape growers (viticulturists) throughout the growing season
- develop new wine styles and improve the wine quality
- process grapes to make wine
- control fermentation and adjust wines as needed
- ensure legal standards and specifications are met, such as alcohol level requirements in New Zealand or the country of export
- filter, bottle and package the wine for sale
- maintain winemaking equipment and machinery
- manage winery workers
- use software to track grape health and growth
- record procedures, blends and inventories
- market and sell wine.
Skills and knowledge
Winemakers need to have knowledge of:
- different wine styles and varieties
- winery and vineyard technology and tracking software
- wine-related science, such as chemistry, biology and microbiology, and laboratory skills
- hygiene and sterilisation methods and regulations
- engineering and flow process technology (pumps and hoses)
- operating tractors or forklifts if working in a vineyard.
- usually work a 40-hour week, but during harvest will often work up to 100 hours a week
- work in a winery, winery laboratory, office or factory
- may also work outdoors in vineyards.
What's the job really like?
From government to wine
Strat Canning, winemaker of 32 years, started in the industry after working for the Government for 10 years.
“Looking back, I didn’t know much about wine, but growing something and taking it through to a final product seemed like a meaningful thing to do in life.”
Strat managed a vineyard for four years early in his career. “That was an incredibly valuable period of time because the vineyard is really where it’s all at. Without an understanding of the vineyard, you can never have a good understanding of the winemaking process.”
Hard work shows in the wine
“When you open a bottle you’re accountable for what you’ve done for that wine over the previous 24 months, both in the vineyard and winery. And that can be judged for 10 years to come. It’s satisfying and it keeps me on point. If you think, 'I can’t be bothered doing that today,' it might be picked up further down the track when someone opens the wine.”
How to get into the industry
Strat says it’s difficult to get a job as a cellar hand and
even harder to move up the ranks. But it's possible with hard work, training, experience and networking.
“All you can do is stick with it, email as many people as you can, pull strings if you have any, and try to shine among your peers.”
Courtenay Sang talks about life as a winemaker – 2.16 mins.
So a winemaker is producing wine from grapes that are grown in a vineyard.
So it's squashing grapes, getting the juice, fermenting it in vats,
aging it in barrels,
and putting wine into a bottle. One of the key responsibilities as a
winemaker is ensuring the quality of our wine.
So this involves a lot of lab analysis,
record keeping and making sure that we've got training for all of our cellar
hands. Here we're checking for the pH of the wine.
So the pH is basically the amount of acid that's in the wine,
so it's important to check the acidity of wine.
There's a certain range that we need to keep it between to make sure that it
maintains its freshness and brightness.
So I started off as an engineer,
so I studied chemical and materials engineering,
and I worked for 2 1/2 years as an engineering consultant,
and then decided that I wanted to do something a little bit more hands-on.
I wanted to make something, so I studied a Postgraduate Diploma in Wine Science.
So it was a 1-year post-graduate degree,
and that gave me the foundations that I needed to become a winemaker. So another
way that you can become a winemaker is basically just working as a cellar hand
and working your way up so you don't actually have to have the study – you can
learn on the job. The most important subjects that you can study at school are
probably chemistry and biology. So every day we are expected to try the wines
just to check for quality and any faults. So expect to drink a lot of wine.
Normally the hours during harvest can vary,
so we can do up to 12-hour shifts.
The rest of the year we are just a normal 9-to-5 job.
So this is when you are relying on your palate and your sense of smell and so
you're smelling for different faults,
you're smelling for different characters in the wines. Being able to
basically connect your brain with your mouth and your nose is really
important. So one of the perks of the job is being able to travel around the
world. We make wine around the world in so many different places,
and all of them are really beautiful.
There are no specific requirements to become a winemaker. However, employers often prefer you to have a qualification such as a:
- Graduate Diploma in Viticulture or Oenology
- Bachelor of Viticulture and Winemaking
- Bachelor of Wine Science
- Eastern Institute of Technology website - information about studying wine science and viticulture
- Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology website - information about the Bachelor of Viticulture and Winemaking
- Lincoln University website - information about the Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology
A minimum of three years of secondary education is recommended. Useful subjects include chemistry, maths, physics and processing technologies.
Winemakers need to have:
- good communication skills
- an eye for detail
- ability to problem solve and work under pressure
- practical and creative skills
- business, management and marketing skills.
Useful experience for winemakers includes:
- vineyard experience
- laboratory experience in breweries or dairy factories
- experience in wine sales, tasting or serving.
Winemakers need to have an above average sense of taste and smell.
Find out more about training
- New Zealand Winegrowers
What are the chances of getting a job?
Number of winemakers expected to grow
New Zealand wine has an excellent reputation, attracting tourists and creating export demand. The export value of wine has risen each year for the last decade and will likely reach $2 billion annually by 2020. The number of wineries is increasing. From 2018 to 2019, 19 new wineries were established.
Due to industry growth, the number of winemakers is expected to increase by 3% each year until 2026.
According to the Census, 741 winemakers worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Shortage of skilled winemakers
Employers report difficulty finding skilled winemakers, so your chances of securing a job are best if you have relevant experience.
Winemaker appears on Immigration New Zealand's regional skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled winemakers from overseas to work in New Zealand.
Chances better in larger wine-producing regions
It can be hard to get an entry-level position or to progress from an assistant winemaker role. However, chances for entry-level roles are better in larger wine regions such as Marlborough, Central Otago and Hawke's Bay.
Most winemakers work for wineries or wine companies
Winemakers generally work for wineries or wine companies. They can work for small wineries, which make up 80% of New Zealand's total wine producers, or for large corporate producers.
- Crennan, N, external relations manager, New Zealand Winegrowers, careers.govt.nz interview, 30 January 2020.
- Deloitte, 'Wine Industry Benchmarking and Insights 2018', accessed July 2019, (www2.deloitte.com).
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Regional Skill Shortage List', 27 May 2019, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- New Zealand Wine, 'Annual Report 2019 New Zealand Wine Growers', accessed August 2019, (www.nzwine.com).
- Payscale, 'Average Winemaker Salary in New Zealand', accessed July 2019, (www.payscale.com).
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Winemakers may progress to set up their own vineyard, or move into chief winemaker management roles.
Last updated 26 June 2023