"This wine has an excellent bouquet and a long finish. It's a credit to the winery's human resources director."
Who's the most important employee at a winery? You might think it's the winemaker or vineyard manager. But they're not paid like it.
Wine Business Monthly released its annual salary survey in its October issue, and I was struck by how many people are paid more than the winemaker.
Here's a chart of average salaries from U.S. wineries of all sizes:
The bigger the winery, the more the various administrators are paid; that's logical because there's more for an HR director to do at a million-case winery. But surprisingly, winemakers are not paid more at the biggest wineries (over 500,000 cases); in fact, they are the lowest paid of all winemakers.
The highest-paid winemakers work at mid-size wineries, from 50,000 to 100,000 cases. But there's very little dropoff in average salary to smallish wineries (defined as under 50,000 cases by Wine Business Monthly).
There is a big dropoff at very small wineries, under 5000 cases. The average salary at those for (Junior) Winemaker is $74,096, about what Assistant Winemakers make at larger wineries. Plus, most small wineries don't have a Winemaking Director or a Senior Winemaker.
So instead of trying to taste terroir or the winemaker's style, perhaps we should be sniffing for characteristic notes of the benefits program.