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  • Jancis Robinson
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  • Jancis Robinson
19 Jul 2012

Looking for a job in a winery? Looking for staff for your winery? Then thecellarhand.com, founded by George Read, who has worked in cellars in New Zealand, Chile, England and the northern Rhône and is currently working for a wine merchnt in Bristol, UK, could be the website for you.

But for us couch potatoes who have no direct interest in winery recruitment, there is a (sometimes grimly) fascinating section of this international webite devoted to reports on various wineries as places to work. Take this Western Australian one, for example:

This company isn't a good opportunity. I went there because they promised us a lot of money and advantage. But they lied.
The ambiance was awful. The direction and manager was all asshole.
They wasn't fair with the staff. The night shift worked for example the Friday 6pm until 12pm (no work the saturday because the paid is a little bit more…..) And they started again the sunday at 12 pm until 6 am……. horrible to find a rhythm.
They stopped the contract to people suddenly : "Tomorrow it's your last day, thanks"
The contract was unclear…..

All about this winery was a joke.
Event the wine is not good. Except if you like to work with big machine and never see a grape.

I recommended to you to never go there. I had a friend worked at Houghton Swan Valley, it was the same. It's all about money they can save and nothing about wine or people!

Much better are these two about the experience of working at Chapel Down, in Kent, southern England:

Cellarhand 1 - Production around 600 tonnes. Grape varieties included but not limited to Bacchus, Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay and Rondo. All types of still and sparkling wine made. There were 2 groups of 3 cellarhands on each shift, it was an easy going place to work with friendly people. Vintage was 6 weeks but 4 of those weeks were 7 days a week with 10+ hours a day, so was a good chance to earn decent money. Nearest town is Tenterden with a supermarket, restaurants and pubs; I stayed in an annexe building and shared with a fellow cellarhand in a village not far from Tenterden with its own pub…happy days. Duties included flotation, pressing red ferments, transfers, barrel work, ferment round, lab work pretty much everything. Highlight had to be the job variety and undertaking tasks that I had not done before, definitely easier to learn more at a smaller winery; And both winemakers were always around to speak to about the processes.

Cellarhand 2 - Just to back up George's comments. I too worked alongside him albeit on the night shift. Chapel Down is a good place to work they have a very healthy caring attitude to all who work for them. As an intern you get free accommodation sorted and provided to you *(dunno if this is still the case), one free meal 'homecooked' was also excellent, the money is decent too.

Nightshift in 2010 saw more hours as they solely receive the fruit, weigh it and press it. The nature of the harvest that year was big volume, so-so quality in most cases. Cest la vie! Nightshift does do some lab work: TA, pH and sugars of juice and grape samples. Additions to press are your other responsibility. After 2-3 shifts you will be an expert and get yourself comfortably in to a routine.

Winemakers Andrew Parley and Josh are good guys and will teach you well. It is a good place to come and learn predominantly about method champenoise production and how to deal with high TA, low pH wines.

A very decent place to work.

More information from thecellarhand.com.