Yeah, it’s a pretty good gig. I take pause to reinsert that notion into my brain when wine becomes “work.” And there are many times when the stress of said “work” blots out any palpable enjoyment or job satisfaction. One can easily fall into a trap: grinding away at the gears of the machine that pumps bottles of wine out of the warehouse and into stores and restaurants. “Moving boxes,” we call it. Day in, and day out.
However, given that Spring is upon us, I suppose optimism is in style. Optimism, and those Godforsaken Peeps. Candy corn and crappy candy hearts weren’t enough, huh? Someone had to create even more, terrible, inedible candy. I’m certain that not even satan himself, with an army of demon pâtisseriers, could conjure such a confectionary atrocity.
But, again, this is a season of revival and optimism (no matter the imminent horde of marshmallow overlords). With the sales blitz of the holidays and the wine-consumption doldrums of January/February in the past, I sense renewal. Sales return to some semblance of consistency, and I am inspired to remember why I love this business. Born-again out of the grind, here is why it’s all worthwhile:
I don’t have a morning commute. This is a watershed statement from a guy who spent six years driving twenty miles through FORTY-ONE traffic lights (each way) nearly every morning and afternoon.
No longer. As long as the work gets done and the numbers come in, it matters not when the clock gets punched. Still, I’m usually up by 7:00 a.m. (or earlier), and–not long after– I’m working on spreadsheets, preparing sales presentations, tasting/decanting wines, or sending emails. But, at least, I’m sending emails in my underwear, like a proper slob. Am I writing this right now in my underwear? Do I even wear underwear? This job gives me the freedom to leave that tantalizing mystery to your imagination.
I really don’t do anything important. Sure, I provide a (hopefully) valuable service to my customers. But I’m not saving lives here. I’m selling rotten grape juice that makes people happy and/or gets them kicked off the Cleveland Browns roster. I don’t have to worry about premature babies or cancer patients dying on my watch. I’m not green-lighting executive orders that will send teenagers off to war. Nor am I wrangling terrorists, flying people across the country, or protecting civil liberties. Typically, my worst days consist of shipping errors, pricing blunders, tainted bottles, and hurt feelings. The fact that, at the end of any given day, my head will likely not end up on a pike, due to poor job performance–is comforting.
I drink VERY well. Stressed out by forking over $50 for that great bottle you really want? Not me. I drank it last Tuesday with a microwave burrito.
I work with interesting people. The wine business seems to be one of creative misfits. Not everyone, mind you, but enough to paint some polka dots on the suits and ties and MBAs. There are lots of folks–like me–who left other careers to do what we do. There are people who went to college, got degrees, and decided they wanted something else. There are musicians, artists, cooks, writers, and raconteurs. There are plenty of weirdos and whack-jobs. But aren’t they always the ones who seem more interesting? And dealing with interesting people–warts and all–is substantially enriching. People with passion and heart and verve, although sometimes colossal pains in the ass, can also be sort of fantastic.
I spend nearly every day working with the most compelling, beguiling, complex, and utterly spectacular beverage in the history of the world. When I drink a glass of wine, I’m drinking as the Phoenicians did. And the Romans. I’m sharing a common thread of enjoyment with Thomas Jefferson. When I open a bottle of good wine, I get to taste the toil of dozens of people committed to making something great.
I bore easily. I don’t like routine. And there are thousands of different wine grapes, grown in hundreds of different regions, climates, and micro-climates. And every wine is a moving target. There are vintage variations from single producers year after year. There are adjustments in blends, grape varieties, and aging techniques. Furthermore, the tastes of each wine can completely change at distinct points in their evolution. And- with food- these fermented grapes take to infinite flavor combinations. There is always, ALWAYS, something new to try. Even when I’ve experienced something before, the chance to share that with others creates yet another new scenario; one where communion and conviviality catapult wine to its pinnacle of purpose.
Truly, the more I learn and experience, the less I know. That’s terrifically (and simultaneously) exciting, confusing, frustrating, rewarding, and educational. The business of working with wine allows me to constantly be the student, and never the master. I’d get complacent if I knew everything–and that’s never going to happen.
So, there’s my crack at evangelism. Perhaps you, too, have felt baptized in the refreshing fermented waters of the wine world. Maybe it is time for a career rebirth of your own.
Indeed, there is quite a lot of excitement and appeal to the wine business…
…and there is quite a bit more.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joe Herrig is a certified sommelier, certified specialist of wine, and a WSET advanced diploma-holder. His current magnum opus is representing the fine wine portfolio of a large wholesaler in metro Atlanta. When not slinging wine or awkwardly painting himself in a favorable light for biographical purposes, Joe enjoys drinking beer, eating burritos, and being raised in a house run by his wife and two young daughters. Follow him on Twitter at @SuburbanWino.