What makes a Winemaker?

Occasionally, when I am asked what I do and I respond, “I’m a winemaker”, I still get asked what it is I do?  I always respond, a little perplexed, “I make wine.”  It seems to be so simple in my mind but perhaps it is not to everyone.  So when this month’s cover of Wine Enthusiast showed up in my inbox, I had to rethink my simplistic definition.

Is this a winemaker?

Now I know what I think the definition of a winemaker is but I’m very interested in hearing your opinions.  What is a winemaker?  Is it different depending on what part of the industry you are in?  What if you are not in the industry? What is that person’s definition of a winemaker?  Does it bring to mind the farmer type walking down foggy vineyard rows at dawn or does it bring to mind celebrities such as Kate Hudson, who graces the cover of Wine Enthusiast this month?  Do you have to actually be pulling hoses or can you be a consultant who drops in 3 days a year to check on things to be a winemaker?

In my opinion, a winemaker is the primary person making the day to day decisions about the winemaking process.  However, I could see how the person who owns a small winery would think of themselves as a winemaker even if they are not trained and working as one.

Please leave a comment to let me know what you think a winemaker is.  I can’t wait to see how you, my readers, define this.


3 thoughts on “What makes a Winemaker?

  1. Nova, I’m kind of embarrassed. I thought I knew what a winemaker was, but now I am questioning it!! (Although, I definitely know that winemaker’s are more likely in practical jackets and work boots versus, what is that, a tube top and linen pants?!) In my mind, a winemaker: tells junior winemakers what to do, creates the plan for the wine, oversees the production of the wine, and tastes wines to direct blends — and tours around being a fabulous representative of the label. Am I even close?

  2. Your suggested definition of “winemaker” is serviceable. But having been a professional winemaker myself for 39 years, I can tell you one thing a winemaker ordinarily is NOT, and that is a “vintner.” “Winemaker” and “vintner” are not synonyms! Properly, a vintner is the person who owns the wine shop on the corner and sells finished wine. A winery owner might be considered a vintner, but most certainly I, who rarely takes money from a customer, am not. Misuse of that word drives me nuts! (And can’t you tell? Thank you and good night.)

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