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Working as a wine merchant
by Nicolas André

Nicolas André

Following a 25-year career in the tourist industry, Nicolas André decided to follow his dreams by retraining at the age of 47. As his goal was to open an independent wine store, he needed a training programme which would give him the skills with which to handle his project in a truly professional manner. It is one thing to be passionate about wine, it is another to be able to talk about it like a true professional. He therefore began the Wine and Management Diploma in 2021, and recently opened Chais Coco, in the Paris region. 

Why did you decide to retrain in oenology?
Following 25 years in the tourist industry, and the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, I decided I needed to give new meaning to my career by moving into a profession about which I am passionate. Wine has always been part of my life and over the years I became aware of my ability not only to give friends and family advice, but also to introduce them to different wines. Oenology or, more broadly speaking, the wine industry, became the obvious playing field in which to achieve my professional goals.  

What are the strong points of the training programme?
I chose the Wine and Management Diploma because of the multi-dimensional aspects of the programme: oenology makes up the largest share but modules such as Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Management/Finance, Logistics and Culinary Concept are also included. The vineyard visits provide a real opportunity to create a network by visiting both renowned estates, châteaux and companies, and less well-known ones which demonstrate real know-how. The food and wine pairing workshops enable you to fully understand which pairings work and make your own suggestions. 
By the end of the training programme, I had solid foundations and a global approach with which to turn my goals into reality. 

What is one of the most important things you learnt during your training programme?
It is difficult to choose just one thing, but these words come to mind: discipline, excellence, modesty, developing an open mind and curiosity, and learning how to talk about wine in a professional manner in English.

Could you tell us about one of the internships you carried out during your training programme?
I carried out my internships with 2 wine merchants, which gave me the opportunity to compare two different approaches to the profession. An independent wine merchant, Vin des As, in Asnières sur Seine, which focuses on biodynamic and natural wines. A franchised wine merchant, Les Domaines qui Montent, in Paris’s 9th district, which also sells groceries and serves food at lunchtime. 

At Les Domaines qui Montent, I was involved in facing, updating the window displays, welcoming and giving advice to customers, especially foreigners and tourists. The training at the institute in English was, therefore, a real bonus, as I felt completely at ease when advising such customers.

The internships enabled me to learn all the different dimensions and aspects of the profession: ordering wines and spirits, receiving and checking orders, determining the retail price for customers, ensuring the window displays were eye-catching and setting up a tasting workshop with a presentation of the products.

Could you tell us what your current job involves?
Being an independent wine merchant involves choosing the estates and agents you want to order from in order to provide customers with a representative range of both French and foreign wines. Our range is adapted in line with the seasons, as doing so makes it easier to give advice about food and wine pairings and demonstrates the wine store’s dynamism. Spirits and beers are must-haves in a wine store today so it is important to take an interest in them. I am also keen to learn about alcohol-free drinks as they are a growing trend, enabling those who do not drink alcohol to really feel as if they are part of a meal with friends or family. 
The majority of my time is spent welcoming and advising customers. It is also important to take the weather and sporting events into account, as they play a huge role in consumption patterns at a given moment or period of time. 
As I am independent, I choose my range and ensure it evolves whenever I want it to, which gives me greater flexibility than I would have if I belonged to a franchise.

What advice would you give future students?
The Wine & Management Diploma is an intensive training programme but comprehensive enough to enable you to launch your project whatever it may be (sommellerie, wine store or wine bar, agent or brand ambassador, oenotourism and many other jobs).
Get the most out of your training programme and internships.
Believe in yourself no matter what your age, you can successfully carry out a career change and achieve your goal.
The training programme gives you the keys to success, it is then up to you to take these tools and adapt them to your project and personality.
The training programme is just the first step in the learning process, the world of wine is a lifelong learning curve.

Chais Coco
4 Rue Mertens
92270 Bois-Colombes


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