Joseph Phiri from De Grendel is a good example of the South African wine industry’s commitment to the empowerment and training of cellar workers.
Joseph Phiri, the winner of the SA Cellar Worker Award for 2012, sponsored by Nedbank, has worked at De Grendel in Durbanville for the past 11 years. He is known by all for his perseverance and passion for his job as cellar worker.
“I am not just a cellar worker,” says Joseph. “I constantly empower myself to improve my life. I believe in taking ownership of your work and I am proud to work in the wine industry.”
While it meant a lot to Joseph to win the award, he never intended to stop there. “My dream is to have my own wine tasting venue in a shopping centre,” he says. “I think it will be wonderful for people who love good wine. You can do your shopping and at the same time taste and enjoy some great wine.”
Joseph’s advice to other cellar workers is to improve their skills and make the most of the opportunities that come their way. “Don’t be shy to ask questions and make sure that you understand the assignments given to you. Taste wine regularly, work on cultivating self-confidence and stand up for yourself when necessary.”
Charles Hopkins, cellar master at De Grendel, says that he and Joseph have gotten to know each other well over the 12 years they have worked together. “Joseph is always keen to learn and show interest, and he regularly does courses to further his knowledge. He is also a businessman who is always looking for an opportunity to discuss entrepreneurial ideas.”
As an advocate of mentorship in the South African wine industry, Charles regularly encourages cellar workers to empower themselves by entering the SA Cellar Worker Programme. “This programme really makes a big difference in the lives of cellar workers. I just wish there was also an avenue to take the participants even further to assistant winemakers and winemakers. Still, I believe that it is a good start and an initiative that should be supported by the industry.”
Empowerment is a complex subject which not only involves mentorship, but also non-visible elements like hope, says Santi Basson, project manager of the SA Cellar Worker Programme. “How will you be able to empower someone of you cannot give them hope? One should never underestimate the impact of hope as it improves your morale and raises your expectations. And people will only have hope if we give it to them.”