What does a wine director do?

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What is a Wine Director?

Wine directors are responsible for curating and managing the wine program of a dining establishment, such as a restaurant, hotel, or wine bar. These hospitality industry professionals oversee all aspects of the wine list and wine service, ensuring that the wine offerings complement the cuisine, enhance the guest dining experience, and contribute to the establishment’s reputation, profitability, and success in the competitive food and beverage industry.

While many wine directors are certified sommeliers, others work in the role without the certification.

What does a Wine Director do?

A wine director choosing wine for the establishment she works for.

Wine directors perform a wide range of responsibilities related to managing the wine program at a restaurant or other hospitality establishment. Those who are certified sommeliers will generally be more directly involved in wine selection, wine pairing, and other related tasks. Wine directors without this certification will typically assume a high-level oversight and business-focused role and rely largely on the sommeliers on their staff or on contracted wine consultants to curate their establishment’s wine program.

Here's a snapshot of the duties that the career may encompass:

  • Wine Selection – choosing and sourcing wines for the restaurant's wine list; selecting wines from various regions, varietals, and price points to cater to different customer preferences
  • Wine Pairing – advising and assisting customers in selecting wines that complement their food choices, enhancing the dining experience
  • Inventory Management – managing the restaurant's wine inventory, including ordering, receiving, and storing wines; ensuring proper storage conditions to maintain wine quality is crucial
  • Wine List Development – creating and updating the wine list, including descriptions of the wines, vintages, regions, and tasting notes
  • Wine Cellar Management – in fine-dining establishments with extensive wine collections, overseeing the management and expansion of the wine cellar
  • Pricing and Profitability – setting prices for wines on the menu to maximize profitability while providing value to customers; this involves understanding cost of goods and profit margins
  • Staff Training – training and educating restaurant staff, such as servers and sommeliers, in wine knowledge, proper wine service, and selling techniques
  • Wine Marketing and Events – promoting the wine program through marketing and promotional activities and events such as tastings and wine dinners, to attract wine enthusiasts and build the restaurant's reputation as a wine destination
  • Supplier Relationships – establishing and maintaining relationships with wine distributors, producers, and suppliers to ensure a reliable source of quality wines
  • Administrative Tasks – managing budgets, analyzing sales data, and preparing reports on wine program performance

Now that we have a sense of the wine director’s scope of work, let’s look at some different types of wine directors and how their roles and responsibilities may vary:

  • Restaurant Wine Director – This is the most common type of wine director, responsible for curating and managing the wine program in a restaurant.
  • Hotel Wine Director – In a hotel setting, the wine director oversees the wine program for the hotel's various restaurants and bars. These directors may need to manage a more extensive wine list to cater to a diverse customer base.
  • Wine Bar Manager – In wine bars or wine-focused establishments, the person in charge is often referred to as a wine bar manager or wine program manager. These individuals focus on creating a wine list centered around wines by the glass and may also offer wine flights or tasting experiences.
  • Sommelier – A sommelier is a wine professional responsible for wine service, wine selection, and customer education. Sommeliers work in various settings, including restaurants, wine bars, and hotels. As noted above, in some cases the sommelier and wine director roles are combined.
  • Wine Retail Director – In wine shops and retail establishments, there may be individuals responsible for managing the wine inventory, selecting wines to stock, and assisting customers with their wine purchases. While not identical to a traditional wine director, the role shares some similarities.
  • Wine Educator – Some individuals may focus on wine education and may not be directly tied to a specific establishment. They conduct wine classes, tastings, and educational events, sharing their knowledge with the public.
  • Wine Consultant – Wine consultants may work on a freelance basis or be hired by various restaurants or establishments to assist in selecting wines, designing wine lists, and improving wine service.

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What is the workplace of a Wine Director like?

Wine directors are typically employed by establishments in the hospitality and wine industry, where their expertise in wine selection, service, and management is essential. Here is an overview of their most common employers:

  • Restaurants – often in upscale and elegant settings
  • Hotels – often in multiple dining outlets with different styles and atmospheres
  • Wine bars – often in more casual and relaxed environments
  • Wine shops – typically in customer-facing environments, surrounded by wine displays
  • Wine clubs or wine subscription services – potentially working with a geographically wide or even global marketplace
  • Event planning and catering companies – working in various event venues, including banquet halls, conference centers, and outdoor settings
  • Wine resorts and vineyards – often in picturesque settings, with vineyards and wineries as a backdrop, and often with access to wine production facilities and tasting rooms
  • Wine importers and distributors – working closely with restaurants and retail clients
  • Wine education institutes – working in classrooms, tasting rooms, and wine laboratories and often participating in vineyard and winery visits as part of educational programs

The employment of wine directors can vary from one region to another, depending on the wine culture and the prevalence of wine-focused establishments. Their roles may also differ based on the size and style of the establishment. Larger establishments and those with an extensive wine program are more likely to employ dedicated wine directors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Wine Directors are also known as:
Director of Beverages Beverage Director