Over the past few years the SA Cellar Worker Programme and the Winetech study groups have been making a significant and innovative contribution to the transfer of technology to cellar workers. At the same time contributions by permanent cellar workers in the South African wine industry are being acknowledged while establishing role models for workers.

The programme is a valuable source of information for the wine industry to lead the way in terms of the development of human capital. There is a serious demand for training that will develop the practical knowledge of winemaking and the general knowledge of cellar workers to add value to the development of workers’ careers.

The SA Cellar Worker Programme is supported by various industry organisations and attempts to address development and training in the wine industry in a holistic and practical manner by means of closer collaboration with cellars and winemakers. In essence the objective of the programme is not only to broaden knowledge and open doors to other worlds, but also an attempt to increase productivity.

During 2014 the Winetech study groups and the SA Cellar Worker Programme collaborated even more closely to improve the transfer of knowledge to cellar workers. In the course of the year more than 200 workers participated in the study groups.

The study groups, presented in the respective districts, consisted of four sessions. Each session comprised a theoretical, as well as a practical section.

This year the wine countries of the world, the legal vinification products and vinification processes were covered. The cellar workers were exposed to the identification of individual flavour components in wine and defective wines in practical sessions.

The workers were evaluated after each session and their progress submitted to the cellars. The top 17 candidates from participating cellar workers were announced after the fourth and last study group, to qualify for the Cellar Worker of the Year award. The candidates underwent a theoretical and tasting evaluation, based on the content of the study groups, and the three finalists and the winner were selected from this group.

Robertson cellar workers.

Robertson cellar workers.

This year the two finalists and winner of the Paarl region tasting competition were also given the opportunity to participate in the evaluation. The Paarl region tasting competition should not be confused with the Winetech study group since it is an independent initiative of Paarl Wine Route.

The three finalists are Gerrie Grootboom (Roodezandt Wines), Marius Stevens (Graham Beck Wines) and Petrus Prins (Robertson Co-op). The 2014 Cellar Worker of the Year is Gerrie Grootboom from Roodezandt, Robertson.

The SA Cellar Worker of the Year winner was announced at the annual Cellar Worker Information Day at Goudini Spa, Rawsonville on 31 October. The programme of the information day may be considered a further transfer of technology and this year for the first time the prestigious function was sponsored by Nedbank and Old Mutual, which undoubtedly added value to the SA Cellar Worker Programme.

In the course of the year it was found that the dual medium presentations in Afrikaans and English did not benefit any group and that there was a definite requirement for study groups catering to both the Xhosa and Afrikaans mother tongue cellar workers. The use of interpreters cannot be seen as a solution, since there is no verification that the content is being translated correctly. Both groups are disadvantaged, in view of the fact that valuable time, which is already limited during the sessions, is further compromised by the interpreting actions. This aspect will receive attention in future.

At the conclusion of the study groups an opinion poll was conducted and participating cellar workers and winemakers were asked to complete a questionnaire. The feedback was extremely positive and the suggestions were practical and considered constructive.

Both winemakers and cellar workers experienced the approach followed in the study groups this year as extremely positive. There is a definite demand, from winemakers as well as cellar workers, for more practical exposure in terms of flavour components and defective wines. Several winemakers attested to the greater self-confidence, increased interest and enthusiasm of the cellar workers.

After each session the wine countries of the world were also discussed with cellar workers by some of the winemakers, which testified to the workers’ interest in the subject. Winemakers confirmed that the discussions about other wine countries opened the door to new worlds for their cellar workers. This year cellars received the attendance registers and evaluation of the cellar workers after each session, so that they could monitor the workers’ progress. Closer collaboration between the winemakers and cellar workers enhances the success of the Winetech study groups and the SA Cellar Worker Programme.

Only when the cellars and cellar workers take ownership of these initiatives can a significant difference be made to the development and empowerment of workers. According to Christo Conradie (VinPro manager: Wine Cellars) the project has the continued support of VinPro. The eventual objective of the study groups is to cultivate an interest and pride in their careers and the product with which they work.

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