The Business of Wine


This article is part of a series on Innovative Internships.

While interning as a chemist at wine producer E. & J. Gallo, Molly Zawacki ’17 has enjoyed going out into the vineyard to pick grapes. Studying them, she says, helps her learn what affects the taste and smell of different wines. “I love the variety of things that I do for my internship,” she says. “There is a great balance of hands-on work and more logical data analysis.” 

And what exactly does chemistry have to do with making wine? The process of winemaking is focused on chemical engineering, Zawacki explains. “This includes processes such as distillation, fermentation, and genetic analysis,” she notes, practices and techniques she learned while a chemical engineering major at the University of Pennsylvania, from which she graduated in spring 2021. 

Zawacki’s primary project while at Gallo’s main campus in Modesto, California, has been analyzing the genetics of different grape varieties. Her six-month internship ends in December. While her love of chemistry remains, she’s discovered new interests while at Gallo—and now plans to pursue an M.B.A. 

“I have learned a lot about the corporate world and what drives innovation,” she says. “There are lots of different projects going on at Gallo, and it has been very interesting to see the motivation for these projects. For example, the California fires have been a large problem for winemakers, and I’ve learned how corporate businesses grow and adapt to overcome a challenge such as that. I have also learned that while I love the rudimentary science work, I want to transition into the business side of things to help find a solution to those challenges myself.”