When one hears the word Namaqua, one involuntarily thinks of the region’s impressive wildflower display in spring, but also of the well-known cellar, Namaqua Wines in Vredendal. This cellar, approximately 20 kilometres from the cold Atlantic Ocean, is situated at the foot of the Maskam Mountains and on the banks of the Olifants River. Vredendal Wine Cellar and Spruitdrift Wine Cellar amalgamated in 2002 and consequently Namaqua Wines was founded. The Vredendal Wine Cellar produced wine since 1947, but the history of producing wine in the region goes back much further than the twentieth century. The famous 18th century French author, traveller and ornithologist, Francois Le Vaillant, visited Namaqualand during December 1781 and May 1783. In his famous travel journal, Travels into the interior of Africa via the Cape of Good Hope (1790), Le Vaillant wrote that he bought “strong alcohol” from the widow Van Zeijl, while traveling along the Olifants River. During the 18th and 19th centuries, most producers produced wine and distilled brandy, which they sold to passing travellers.
Unlike 18th century wine production and distribution which took place on a small scale, Namaqua Wines currently has 126 permanent employees and approximately 90 temporary workers are annually employed during the harvest season. Apart from the two cellars, there is also a bottling and packaging plant, which is responsible for the packaging of millions of litres of wine, which is distributed to the domestic and international markets.
The distance from Vredendal to the larger towns in the Western Cape can be a challenge to provide training and skills development to cellar assistants and other employees. The Winetech study groups and workshops for senior cellar assistants are presented annually in the region, which makes it possible to develop cellar assistants’ knowledge. Participating in the Winetech study groups and the workshops for senior cellar assistants ensure exposure and knowledge transfer to the Namaqua Wines cellar teams.
According to Pieter Verwey, operations manager of Namaqua Wines, the value added by the study groups and senior workshops to knowledge transfer is significant and the influence and impact of the Winetech programmes is immediately noticed in the cellars. Cellar assistants certainly have more confidence, ask more questions, and make valid suggestions, which have an influence on daily operational activities. Cellar assistants are motivated and creative and, as a result, supervision is less important.
Knowledge transfer is of the utmost importance, as informed and well-trained cellar assistants are aware of the winemaking processes which should take place and what the influence will be on the end-product. Well-trained and motivated cellar assistants ease the winemakers’ responsibilities in the cellars.
It is important for Namaqua Wines to give potential leaders added responsibilities, but to guide them and let leadership qualities develop in time. Important characteristics which are considered include the spontaneous way individuals take charge in the cellar and the respect it commands amongst fellow cellar assistants. Reliability and integrity are important qualities which also play a role in identifying future leaders. The development of leaders is dealt with the necessary sensitivity, so that there cannot be a perception that individuals are merely promoted or automatically placed in leadership positions. It is important for Namaqua Wines that potential leaders are equipped with the necessary knowledge to eventually be able to provide leadership in the cellar.
Knowledge transfer, including technology transfer to all Namaqua Wines cellar assistants is considered a priority, but a holistic approach is followed to ensure the optimal development of individuals. Therefore, personal development and technology knowledge transfer to cellar assistants are considered equally important. The holistic approach which is followed ensures that well-informed cellar assistants are employed by Namaqua Wines.
Jo-Dean Don and Mervano Mentoor (Namaqua Wines).
Christolene Paulse (Namaqua Wines).
Gerald Owies and Deno Moss (Namaqua Wines).
Asemahle Dyasi (Spruitdrift), Sandile Mgeni and Milani Ncethelo (Namaqua Wines), and July Mdange (Spruitdrift).
Danesa Mosenene, Ronelle Murphy, Denise Owies and Deno Moss (Namaqua Wines).
Johny Ndungo and Lungisani Kowa (Namaqua Wines).
Petros Buso (Klawer Wines) and Bongani Mzembe (Namaqua Wines).