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10 Winemakers On Most Important Skill In Winemaking

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08/11/2022 Patience, physical strength, curiosity, self-belief, time management, winemaking and grape growing knowledge, and team members are some of the most important skills needed to be a good winemaker.

In this interview Sid Patel, CEO of Beverage Trade Network and Sommeliers Choice Awards chats with some of the world’s top winemakers by asking them one single question ‘What are the top skills you a winemaker must have here is what they had to say".

Joseph Patrick, Winemaker and Vineyard Manager at Jones Family Farms, United States: Time management is the most important skill a winemaker must have, of course besides their own personal winemaking style. Logistics is the biggest factor in almost every decision you make in this industry. effectively managing your time can lead to better fulfillment of winemaking procedures and practices. When you complete your duties in an effective and efficient manner you will have a consistent, high-quality product.

Joseph Patrick

Joseph Patrick, Winemaker and Vineyard Manager at Jones Family Farms, United States

Duncan Shouler, Chief Winemaker at Giesen Group Limited, New Zealand: A good understanding of the science behind winemaking and grape growing is essential really.  That forms the foundation, and then after that, it's all about having the ability to use that knowledge to deliver a vision for a vineyard and a wine style.

 Duncan Shouler

Duncan Shouler, Chief Winemaker at Giesen Group Limited, New Zealand

Peter Selin, Winemaker, owner at Selin Cellars, United States: Patience, desire for knowledge, and understanding of different styles of winemaking.

Peter Selin

Peter Selin, Winemaker, owner at Selin Cellars

Brian Crew, Winemaker at Cellar Beast Wine, United States: Passion, observation, organization, adaptability, eagerness to expand knowledge, strong work ethic, and experimental instincts.  Matt, Mark & I have always dared to experiment and it has constantly made us better at what we do.

Brian Crew

Brian Crew, Winemaker at Cellar Beast Wine

Andrew Yingst, Winemaker at Grace Winery, United States: Patience is a good one. I thought I messed up at making a chardonnay one year, but as the wine aged in nice French oak barrels, it became something completely unexpected. It was one of the favorites I've made. However, the most important skill is the ability to take critical feedback. I always need someone alongside me to at the least bounce ideas off of and at worst tell me something I'm missing. I have the luxury of having a boss that demands quality and will tell me what he thinks. At the end of the day that has led to some wonderful creations.

Andrew Yingst

Andrew Yingst, Winemaker at Grace Winery

Rose Kentish, Winemaker, Distiller, Flavourist - Sparkke, Full Circle Spirits, and Rose Kentish Wines, Australia: Patience, physical strength, curiosity, and a good dose of self-belief. All of these get tested every single day.

Rose Kentish

Rose Kentish, Winemaker, Distiller, Flavourist - Sparkke, Full Circle Spirits, and Rose Kentish Wines, Australia

Josh Kessler, Associate Winemaker at Swedish Hill Vineyard, United States: Attention to detail, patience, and creativity. Winemakers I think by nature are very detail oriented, which yeast to select, how hard to press, and what varieties will do well in a blend. Patience is important because sometimes, especially during harvest things don't cooperate with you, and sometimes making decisions too quickly can come back to bite you. So taking a step back and taking time to make important decisions. Creativity is important because the market is always changing and winemakers need to be able to react to those changes in a creative way to stay relevant in a very competitive market.

Josh Kessler

Josh Kessler, Associate Winemaker at Swedish Hill Vineyard, United States

Justin Mund, Winemaker at Monserate Winery, United States: Be proactive and a good problem solver.  Everything in the wine industry requires good timing - in the vineyards and the cellar.  You never want to be in a position where you're trying to catch up.

Justin Mund

Justin Mund, Winemaker at Monserate Winery

Greg Clack, Winemaker at Chain of Ponds, Co-owner XO Wine Co, Australia: Someone dedicated but always willing to learn and someone who is knowledgeable and understands in depth the link between viticulture and winemaking.

Greg Clack

Greg Clack, Winemaker at Chain of Ponds, Co-owner XO Wine Co, Australia

Brad Frederickson, Winemaker & Creator at Outside The Box Wines, New Zealand: I think Winemakers have to be very diverse members of the team. Given the range of wineries, small family-owned to large corporate, you could be dealing with anything from hands-on winemaking to computer work, to sales and marketing, and even maintenance. I think the key skills that will benefit from such a diverse role are psychology, creativity, mechanical understanding, science, patience, and being a diverse and multi-dimensional thinker. 

Psychology will help you get the best out of your team. I’m not talking use psychology against them; I’m meaning using psychology to understand your individual team members and how to work with them, to make sure they enjoy every day, whilst you bring out the best in them. 

Creativity is key. I’ve worked under many winemakers now and have seen many who are “making it that way because that’s how they’ve seen it before” or “because that’s how everyone else makes it”.  There are a lot who don’t have much say in what they make and also those who are just chasing medals.  I think there is a small group who are just making their dream wines. I feel that wine should be whatever the winemaker comes up with.

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Mechanical understanding is important – you’ve got to be able to run equipment and know when something isn’t running right. Science – there’s a lot of science in winemaking, so having a solid background in science is definitely a bonus. 

Winemaking can be very fast-paced at times, but there are also times when you need to slow down and have some patience. Don’t rush your wines or make rushed decisions. Take some time to think if time allows. If you’re deciding on a big decision like a final blend, take some home and drink it at night in a more relaxed setting. Take the time to let your subconscious mull over it. 

And being a diverse and multi-dimensional thinker. This is key for problem-solving which can be in any aspect of the job from equipment to staff, to wine problems, and the list goes on, and you need to be able to problem-solve in all kinds of areas.

Brad Frederickson

Brad Frederickson, Winemaker & Creator at Outside The Box Wines, New Zealand

Preston Thomas, Associate Winemaker at Stone Tower Winery, United States: There is no replacing experience in this industry, but I think there are a few key skills that the best winemakers I know share - the ability to be flexible, good reasoning, being present, and a thirst for knowledge. Winemaking yields a broad and unique skill set!

Preston Thomas

Preston Thomas, Associate Winemaker at Stone Tower Winery, United States

Olivia Wright, Winemaker at Rodney Strong Vineyards, United States: The ability to take calculated risks and be patient while waiting for results. Every vintage has its own unique challenges. Oftentimes you have to make decisions on the fly and sometimes you don't get to see how they play out until months or even years down the line. Being a winemaker means constantly learning to trust your own judgment under pressure, and also sometimes knowing when it's best to bring in a second opinion.

Olivia Wright

Olivia Wright,, Winemaker at Rodney Strong Vineyards, United States

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