The first rung on the winemaking ladder

Roger Morris meets some cellar rats, the interns who travel the world to work vintage, the first step on their winemaking journey.

Photo by Lasseter Winery on Unsplash
Photo by Lasseter Winery on Unsplash

Nigel Kinsman was a young musician working in an Adelaide wine shop in the late 1990s when well-regarded winemaker Peter Leske came in for a trade tasting of his Nepenthe wines. “I tasted three of his wines and said, ‘Here’s the deal, I want to come work for you’,” Kinsman recalls. “‘I don’t have any experience, but I will work for free.’ We got along fairly well, so he took me on as a vintage intern.”

Eight years and eight harvests later, each performed at a different winery, Kinsman felt ready to take on a full-time winemaker’s job. “I did four harvests while I was studying for my degree at the University of Adelaide and four after graduation, including one in Italy,” he recalls. “I was a little different in that I was looking for mentors and not the location of the winery; people I could learn from and who could introduce me to other winemakers they knew.” After most recently making wine at the Araujo Estate in Napa Valley, Kinsman now has his own consulting winemaking company in California.

The interns

Kinsman is a prime illustration of what is becoming standard practice within the wine-producing industry — young winemaking students, as well as older people seeking to switch careers, get their professional starts by first interning at wineries for one or more harvests. When they become winemakers, they repeat the process.

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