Botha Cellar – exposure and continuous transfer of knowledge make a difference

by | Aug 1, 2020 | Practical in the cellar, Winetech Technical

Botha Cellar is situated near the Waaihoek Mountains on the Ceres road, approximately twenty minutes from Worcester. This cellar processes annually large volumes of wine with the assistance of twelve permanently employed cellar assistants. During the annual harvest, they act as team leaders to approximately forty temporarily employed assistants.


Front: Masibulele Qakatha, Xolani Lufele, Joseph Manqina, Mxolisi Mphini and Shadrack Qomoyi. Back: Bonga Mphini, Nqabisile Madope, Sizwe Qomoyi, Elize de Wee, Michael Skepe, Jomo Manunga and Lwandile Somtshu.


According to Johan Linde, production manager and Michiel Visser, senior winemaker, the twelve team leaders have a lot of experience and are thoroughly trained. They have been with Botha Cellar between ten and thirty years, which add to stability in the workplace.

Botha Cellar considers training and transfer of knowledge as important. According to Johan and Michiel positive communication and sound relations ensure that the transfer of knowledge and information takes place in an informal manner.

Most of the permanent cellar assistants completed the Wine Training South Africa SKOP training programmes. Unfortunately, there are few trained individuals available in the Worcester area, who might be considered for possible permanent positions. Therefore, it is considered a challenge to identify individuals for permanent positions, with the potential for further training. The temporary workers who assist in the cellar during the harvest time return to the cellar annually, but for several, mainly personal reasons, do not wish to commit to permanent employment. Literacy levels remain a serious challenge, as semi-literate individuals can participate in formal training only to a certain level. Individuals, with an interest in winemaking processes and the capacity to successfully complete training programmes, are not often found. Johan and Michiel believe that training should always be relevant and add value to cellar assistants’ knowledge.

Botha Cellar follows a holistic approach to the wellbeing of their employees. ProCare, a social services provider, is responsible for the delivery of social services in rural areas and offers a wide range of programmes, such as financial literacy and sound personal relationships. Group sessions, as well as individual counseling, are available. The additional support of Procare guarantees employees’ personal growth, which is one of the most important commitments an employer could make.

Informal mentoring relationships are well established within the cellar, with a policy to develop individual knowledge and confidence. After attending the Winetech study groups, cellar assistants often approach the winemakers with questions, which in turn results to further transfer of knowledge. Inhouse training about matters such as cellar hygiene are presented with the aid of photographs to display the correct, as well as the faulty procedures. It is a recognized fact that many individuals process information better if it is visually presented.

Botha Cellar believes that the Winetech study groups have great value, as an awareness is created, and cellar assistants are exposed to the bigger picture regarding winemaking process. The study groups also stimulate further questions which cellar assistants often ask after attending the study groups. Both Johan and Michiel believe that the interaction which takes place during the study groups with other cellar assistants, eliminate the relative insolation cellar assistants experience in their working environment. An awareness is created, which has a huge impact on the quality of work delivered.

The exposure received during the study groups develops the Botha Cellar team leaders’ leadership qualities. It is impossible to apply their leadership qualities successfully unless they understand the broader picture. Exposure is therefore extremely important for the development of their confidence and to successfully apply their leadership skills within the team. An increase in individual confidence contributes to the assurance that they can reach greater heights.

Therefore, the development of individual confidence is a platform to a new way of thinking and to find solutions for challenges identified within the workplace. The successful, but informal mentoring relationships established with the cellar assistants, as well as the continuous transfer of knowledge, ensure that the Botha cellar assistants are successfully established as leaders amongst fellow cellar assistants at Botha Cellar.


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