Wine Merchant Careers

How to become a Wine Merchant

What does a Wine Merchant do?

Wine merchants, or wine retailers, buy wine from growers abroad or from shippers and sell it in the UK. Their work varies according to the size and type of organisation.

In a large, wholesale business they may work as buyers, importers, general managers, or retail managers. The management roles involve recruiting, training and organising staff, greeting customers and offering advice on the most suitable wines for their needs. Wine merchants take payment for goods, order and display stock, meet sales targets, keep accounts and records, and ensure all legal requirements are met.

Specialist buyers for large wine merchants frequently travel abroad to find new wines, visit vineyards, negotiate prices, check production standards and maintain relationships with producers.

Wine importers or brokers liaise between vineyards abroad and wholesalers in the UK who sell to restaurants and hotels.

Small independent wine merchants are mainly concerned with sourcing and buying wine and selling it from a shop or by mail order. This involves buying and storing wine, advertising it for sale and dispatching orders. Independent wine merchants usually buy from shippers, rarely travelling abroad, but may attend wine tastings in the UK. The daily work of a small independent wine merchant is similar to that of a retail manager (see Retail Store Manager profile).

What's the working environment like working as a Wine Merchant?

The work is mainly office or shop based.

Managers and sales staff work shifts to cover retail outlet opening times. Small, independent wine merchants are likely to work longer hours, particularly if they have a retail outlet.

Specialist buyers spend time in wine producers’ cellars and production areas, and usually travel abroad several times a year, and for a few days at a time.

The work can involve a degree of bending, lifting and carrying.

What does it take to become a Wine Merchant?

To be a wine merchant you should:

  • have a keen interest in wine and be willing to develop your knowledge and expertise
  • have a discriminating sense of taste and smell - to judge quality
  • have good interpersonal and communication skills
  • have negotiating ability - to buy and sell
  • have good numeracy skills
  • preferably have a knowledge of at least one other European language (for buyers).

Wine Merchant Career Opportunities

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Wine Merchant that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Wine and Spirit Educational Trust (WSET)
International Wine and Spirit Centre
39-45 Bermondsey Street
Tel: 020 7089 3800

The Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW)

Skillsmart Retail Ltd
40 Duke Street
Tel: 0800 093 5001

Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Facts and Stats:

  • Napoleon Bonaparte once called England a "nation of shopkeepers".

  • Consumer expenditure per head in the UK is £8,053.

  • The phrase "The customer is always right", was coined by H Gordon Selfridge.

  • The annual sales of digestive biscuits, if stacked on top of each other, would reach 275 miles high That's 4,500 times the height of Nelson's Column or 1,400 times the height of the Eiffel Tower.

  • Britain's first department store was Selfridges, which was opened in 1909.

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