South African cellars are increasingly motivated and encouraged to develop the skills and knowledge of cellar assistants. Although this might appear not to be problematic, transfer of knowledge and the development of skills are far more challenging than many in the industry believe.

Some of the challenges cellars face when planning an annual training programme might include the availability of relevant service providers in their area, i.e. Olifants River and Orange River. Apart from a possible limited budget available for training, aspects such as literacy levels and the prevalent language spoken in the area might also be a problem. An increasing number of Tswana’s and individuals from other African countries are currently employed in the wine industry. Programmes available are conducted in either Afrikaans, English and occasionally in Xhosa. The availability of qualified Tswana speaking facilitators in the wine industry are extremely limited, therefore transfer of knowledge to these individuals will be a challenge.

One should also take into consideration that cellar assistants do not always see the bigger picture and some are not interested to attend training programmes. This could be attributed to a lack of confidence, which often plays a role in the lack of interest to increase knowledge and to further careers. This is unfortunate, as well-trained cellar assistants add value to cellars. Smaller cellars, with only one or two cellar assistants, struggle to include skills development and training in their busy programmes. The distance from cellars to venues, as well as direct and indirect cost, certainly play a major role in the decision to enrol cellar assistants in training programmes.

However, it is clear that there is a serious need for the transfer of practical knowledge and technology to cellar assistants. It has been established that a large number of cellar assistants have a lack of general knowledge regarding winemaking processes.

 


Jason Tiras and Opperman Booysen of Diemersfontein.

 

The solution to some of the above challenges might be the participation in the Winetech study groups and Winetech workshops for senior cellar assistants. These programmes are available free of charge to all cellars and are endorsed by wine industry organisations, such as the Cape Winemakers Guild, Shiraz SA and the Cape Vintners Classification (CVC).

The Winetech study groups and workshops make a considerable contribution in the transfer of knowledge to cellar assistants in a holistic manner. The content of the study groups and workshops differ every year and are presented by qualified winemakers. The workshops for the senior cellar assistants are presented in Afrikaans and English, while the study groups are available in Afrikaans and Xhosa. Although literacy levels of cellar assistants remain a concern, cellars are encouraged to enrol illiterate and semi-literate cellar assistants to participate in the Winetech study groups. It is a well-known fact that literacy levels do not impact on the desire to learn.

Winemakers are of the opinion that the Winetech study groups and workshops make a significant contribution to the development and knowledge of their cellar assistants. Participating cellars indicated that not only knowledge is transferred, but cellar assistants are exposed to the wine industry in general. Cellar assistants receive technical information during the study groups and workshops and learn to understand the bigger picture. They are of the opinion that a network is formed with other cellar assistants, thus eliminating the isolation in which cellar assistants often operate. The interaction with other cellar assistants has enormous benefits.

Larger cellars participating in the programmes confirmed cellar assistants acquired more confidence and take more responsibility in the cellars. Some cellar assistants are able to think out of the box and make clever suggestions. A number of cellars confirmed that the improved labour relations in the workplace can be attributed to participation in the Winetech study groups. There is a better understanding of the different processes in the cellar.

A participating cellar pointed out that the most important benefit of the study groups and workshops is the development of leadership abilities and the establishment of role models amongst cellar assistants. The facilitators of the study groups play an important role in this regard.

 


Cellar assistants busy with wine tasting.

 

Cellars confirmed that participation in the study groups had a positive impact on the quality of work delivered. In turn cellar assistants indicated that they have developed pride in their work which impacts on their personal lives.

The Winetech study groups are also a way of measuring cellar assistants and create the opportunity for cellars to focus on personnel development. The Winetech programmes also create an awareness and interest amongst cellar assistants of the product with which they work.

 


Azola Mtabane (Welmoed), Vusumzi Ntunja (Delheim) and William Makondola (Welmoed).

 

Winetech 2019 workshops for senior cellar assistants

It was established that there is a serious need for more in-depth transfer of knowledge to senior cellar assistants. In 2018 a pilot programme for senior cellar assistants, with a SKOP 3 qualification, was launched by Winetech.

In 2019 workshops will be presented to senior cellar assistants, with a SKOP 3 qualification, in Wellington, Breede River, Vredendal and Upington. The workshops will be presented in Afrikaans and English only. Participation is free of charge.

The content of the 2019 workshops, which will include a tasting, will focus on the use and aim of cooling and heating during the different winemaking processes.

 

Winetech 2019 study groups

In addition to the workshops for senior cellar assistants, three Afrikaans and three Xhosa study groups will be presented in the different participating regions. The study groups may be attended by all cellar assistants, including illiterate and semi-literate individuals, who normally would not be exposed to the transfer of knowledge. Senior cellar assistants are encouraged to attend the study groups in addition to attending the workshops. Participation in the study groups are free of charge.

The content of the 2019 Winetech study groups is relevant to the winemaking process and will focus on pre-fermentation cellar processes.

An evaluation of wine will be included in all three Winetech study groups and faulty wines will receive special attention. The Winetech study groups and workshops for senior cellar assistants are presented from June until end of August.

 

– For more information, contact Santi Basson at santib@mweb.co.za or 072 298 8186.

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