Charlene Carelse

Charlene Carelse is a cellar assistant at Rupert & Rothschild, Franschhoek. She left school after Grade 10 to work and contribute to her grandmother’s household. She accepted a position at the Franschhoek Water Company in 1996 and was the quality control officer of the company by the time it closed down in 2008.

Afterwards it was extremely difficult to find work and for three years she had various temporary positions in Franschhoek. Eventually in 2011 Charlene was appointed as a cleaner at Rupert & Rothschild.

Yvonne Lester, winemaker of R&R, motivated Charlene from the start and asked her whether she would like to be a cleaner for the rest of her life. Charlene was convinced that she can proof herself and in 2012 Charlene was promoted to temporary cellar assistant and in 2017 she was appointed as a permanent cellar assistant. This was a cause for great joy, as her husband David has been part of the R&R team for the past 22 years.

Charlene knew nothing about wine and the winemaking process when she was appointed as cleaner at R&R, but she was keen to learn as much as possible from the start.

She concentrates on increasing her knowledge through training and has successfully completed the Wine Training South Africa SKOP 1, 2 and 3. She aims to complete her matric, with mathematics, by the end of 2018.

Charlene believes that illiteracy is one of the biggest challenges cellar assistants face in the industry. Cellar assistants can often not perform the tasks given to them, as they did not receive the relevant training.

She is of the opinion that there are many opportunities available to cellar assistants in the industry, but cellars should also assist in creating awareness. Charlene confirmed that the Winetech study groups are important to cellar assistants, as their knowledge increase continuously through regular attendance.

She pointed out that female cellar assistants have to be mentally very strong, but they are often unaware of their inner strength. Female assistants have to be very firm in the workplace and also have with firm boundaries. It is hard, physical work in a man’s world, but when one gets home after work, one is still a mother and a wife. This often takes its toll on women.

Charlene believes that a role model must be consistent every day; consequent in their behaviour and treat others with respect. She believes her future is with Rupert & Rothschild, as they encourage further training and individual growth. She has a passion for wine making and would like to be an assistant winemaker one day.