Cellar Assistants’ Programme – information days and senior cellar assistants’ workshops add value

by | Dec 1, 2023 | Practical in the cellar, Technical

The Cellar Assistants’ Programme hosted two information days in 2023, one each at Cavalli Estate, Stellenbosch and at Opstal Estate in the Breedekloof, as well as four workshops for senior cellar assistants in participating districts, which allowed participants to increase their knowledge on different levels. This programme is known for the considerable contribution made to knowledge transfer to cellar assistants and aims to address knowledge transfer practically and holistically.

Cellars operate under immense pressure and cellar assistants must take responsibility for the quality and efficiency of work delivered. Therefore, knowledge transfer plays an important role. Winemakers confirmed that cellar assistants need to be well informed and have a sound knowledge of the product they work with. It remains important that cellar assistants know why certain processes in the cellar are essential. Therefore, cellar assistants should be equipped with as much information as possible. Increased knowledge of winemaking procedures results in cellar assistants developing an insight that some of their assignments have financial implications for the cellar. Knowledge transfer thus provides the necessary background resulting in fewer errors made in the cellar.

Participation in the information days and workshops for senior cellar assistants is free of charge, as cellars contribute to the statutory levy. All cellar assistants are welcome to participate, however, participants in the senior workshops must have completed the Wine Training South Africa SKOP 3 qualification. Participants must be bilingual as the programmes are presented in Afrikaans and English.

A wide range of topics was discussed during the 2023 information days and well-known viticulturists and industry role players presented the programme. For example, Lucinda Heyns discussed regenerative farming: what is it and how does it differ from conventional, sustainable, organic and biodynamic farming? Kachné Ross, People and Skills Development Manager of South Africa Wine gave the participants more information about training opportunities in the wine industry. Dr Karien O’Kennedy, Knowledge Transfer Manager: Oenology South Africa Wine, discussed the influence of bushfires on wine quality. A very important topic was discussed by Elzette du Preez, an independent consultant, who gave more information about the costs involved in winemaking and what the consequences of errors in the cellars are about. Lida Malandra of Enartis discussed wine faults in the cellar and how to identify, prevent and remedy faults. The programme for both information days was concluded by an independent, registered social worker, Greta Grobler, who spoke to the participants about the management of their finances and budgets.

The 2023 senior cellar assistants’ workshops were presented in four participating districts, Stellenbosch, Wellington, Robertson and Klawer. The senior workshops focussed on wine faults on an in-depth level, i.e., how does this happen; how can it be prevented or remedied and what are the implications for the cellar? Participants were able to compare faulty wines with a control wine. The senior workshop programmes were facilitated by Morné Kemp of Laffort and Elzette du Preez, an independent consultant.

Winemakers confirmed that the exposure cellar assistants receive in the programme contributes to the development of leadership skills, increased confidence and new perspectives. In turn, the improved confidence of cellar assistants results in an increase in responsibilities accepted and a noticeable improvement in teamwork. Their abilities to lead are developed and role models are consequently established. Therefore, participation in the Cellar Assistants’ Programme is considered an investment in knowledge transfer.


Cellar assistants 1

Arrie du Plessis, Denver Danster and Jupeter Fortuin from Robertson Wines.


Cellar assistants 2

Abraham Pieterse, Benna Smal and Marius Stevens from Graham Beck Wines.


Cellar assistants 3

Brumilda Lakay and Quinton Lesley from Slanghoek Cellar.


Cellar assistants 4

Markquin Windvogel from De Doorns Cellar and Elzette du Preez (facilitator).


Cellar assistants 5

Pedro Hendricks, Lammershoek and Anthony van Wyk from DGB.


Cellar assistants 6

Gladys Jafta, Vergelegen, Thelma Makhundayi, Vergelegen, Elzette du Preez, facilitator and Roelien Harolds from Waterkloof Wines.


Cellar assistants 7

Dean Mtabani and Linda Human from Van Loveren.


Cellar assistants 8

Johan Rooi from Roodezandt Cellar and Willem Fransman from Waboomsrivier Winery.


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