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The Saleswoman and The Critic

Thinking about a career in the wine world? Seems like a lot of people are interested in getting out from behind a desk and working in an industry that aligns more with their passions. Of course everyone imagines the fringe benefits are pretty good, too. There are a lot of different jobs to have in the wine world, and this week saw a couple of excellent articles about two different jobs as seen through the eyes of very accomplished women.

Jancis Robinson is arguably the most famous woman in the wine world. Among other things she is the author of the venerable Oxford Companion to Wine, which was just released in its third edition. But she is a lot of other things besides the author of the essential reference text on wine. A very nice piece in the New York Times by Eric Asimov profiles Robinson this week as she comes to the states on her book tour for the new edition of the Oxford Companion. The job of a wine critic, especially a world famous one, isn't easy, and Robinson nearly always seems to carry it off with grace.

If there's anything harder than being a wine critic it might be wine sales. Lettie Teague writes this month in Food and Wine about her failed attempts to be a wine saleswoman early in her career. Her article is actually the story of two high powered wine women -- Teague (who found her calling in writing rather than selling, and whose skill clearly illuminates the subject of her article) and Deirdre Ledwitz, the head of sales for a New York wine distributor. The article is a great window into how wine gets sold to restaurants and what it takes to be a good salesperson, regardless of your gender.

Both articles are worth a your time. Thanks to Jeff at The Good Grape for the tip-off on the Food and Wine article.

Comments (6)

11.02.06 at 7:33 PM

"Of course everyone imagines the fringe benefits are pretty good, too."

As those of us ITB know, arguably the fringe benefits are all there is. >:^)

Enoteca wrote:
11.04.06 at 1:38 PM

Thanks for the excellent links! As a newbie to the industry it's nice to hear some old-hat stories like this. As far as a career in wine, I'd love to find people worth hiring in terms of their geek-knowledge of wine AND ability to relate to people in a non-snooty way. That's a very hard mix to find, and the only one that seems to do well in selling, at least out here in the pacific northwest.

Anonymous wrote:
11.05.06 at 5:53 PM

If you're interested in selling wine, make sure the wines in your portfolio are great. They will sell themselves. Don't get stuck with lousy wines, and really know your competitors' product as well as your own.
Too many times as a wine buyer I would be approached by sellers who knew very little about their products or who would bring in warm whites and nearly hot reds. Present the product at it's best.
Just some sage advice.
P.S. Go easy on the Brut( cologne not sparkling) and don't smoke

Gene wrote:
11.07.06 at 1:51 PM

Alder, I've been both a wine rep and a wine writer. It's simple, wine writers have more power than sales reps, not much, but more! Gene

doug wilder wrote:
11.08.06 at 9:07 PM

I always enjoy Lettie Teague's columns, more for what they provide to the general reader. For someone who isn't involved in wine that reads it, they will get a pretty thorough discourse on the subject. I especially liked this one because I deal with salespeople all the time. I hear people say they want to get "into" wine because they are so passionate about it. It takes a unique skill set carrying a bag as it is one of the most challenging jobs in the business. You work with a finite set of wines, some great, some pretty average and you need to sell it all. I never would want to be the person sitting on the other side of my desk! I only am looking for quality wines to recommend to clients.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.