Wine Industry Career Series: The Anatomy of a Wine Sales Rep


 By Karen Wetzel
WSET L3, NVWE, AWE, Career Coach

Have you ever thought about becoming a Sales Rep for a Wine Distributor? Not sure what exactly that would look like? Then read on for a peek behind the curtain and see what a day in the life of a wine rep is like.  

Wine sales woman  

This topic hits very close to home for me. It’s where I started my wine career, as a Sales Rep with a small but mighty distributor in Cleveland, Ohio. I had no sales experience and virtually no wine knowledge, except what I had picked up waiting tables at a casual restaurant where blender drinkers were the star of the drink menu. In fact, that’s when I got the wine bug—while listening to a wine rep teach us about their wine in hopes we would sell more to our guests.  

That experience inspired me to send my resume to every distributor in Northeast Ohio. Low and behold, I got a job selling wine to restaurants. On my first day of training, we were sitting on a patio presenting to a restaurant owner. That’s when I discovered that working in the wine industry is not just a career, it’s a lifestyle.  

However, it didn’t take long before I discovered that there is a lot more to being a wine rep than sipping and swirling—a LOT more.  

The most important responsibility you’ll have as a sales rep is to manage, service, and grow your business in the accounts assigned to you.  To be effective, there are some important attributes that are common to all successful sales reps.   

  • Communication skills to build lasting relationships with your buyers.
  • Organizational skills to manage your accounts and your sales goals.
  • A strong work ethic to draw on when working on your own.
  • Wine knowledge and credentials that give you credibility in the eyes of your buyers and co-workers.

Effective presentation and sales skills to help you grow your business (and your income).  


Accounts in Winery

You’ll spend most of your time meeting with buyers, selling wine, and servicing your accounts. Here’s what a typical sales call might look like?

  1. Before the call, develop a plan and make the appointment. Order and chill samples and gather sales sheets, tasting notes, and data to use during your presentation.
  2. During the call with your buyer, talk about the wine, possibly taste it together, and present the data that demonstrates how/why your product(s) can help grow their sales. Most importantly, ask for the order. 
  3. After the call, follow up. Placing the order, ensuring on-time, accurate delivery.  Provide staff training,   POS or other materials to help the account sell the new items.

Beyond account activities, you’ll track your sales and incentives, work with suppliers, attend meetings, conduct tastings and work-trade tastings.  And, if you’re lucky, occasionally you’ll be invited on a wine or incentive trip.

Sign me up, right?  Just know that you’ll work hard—very hard—but, for me, being a sales rep is one of most rewarding jobs I’ve had in the wine industry.  

As a seasoned veteran who cut my teeth as a wine rep, here are my key take-aways:

  • Start looking now and get out there and network.
  • Don’t let a lack of experience stop you from applying for the job you want.
  • Take the job that’s on the table.  Once you’re in the industry it’s easier to advance to the job you really want.

I hope you found some inspiration in this issue of our Wine Industry Career Series.  Be sure to check out next month’s installation and best of luck in your job search.  


For personal, one-on-one career coaching visit us at  to schedule a session with one of our experienced mentors. To book a session with Karen Wetzel directly click here

Karen Wetzel is an employee of the Napa Valley Wine Academy.  The views expressed in this article are hers alone and may not reflect the views of the Napa Valley Wine Academy.




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