Tantalus Estate – first Waiheke Island winery to train with Cellarhand qualification

June 6, 2019

Situated in the picturesque island village of Onetangi, Tantalus Estate is home to a winery, craft brewery, cellar door, restaurant and eight hectares of vineyard that produce rich and complex Bordeaux and Rhone-style red wines, as well as Chardonnay and Rosé.

Winemaker Alex Perez has made Waiheke his home since 2011 and after seven years, the Argentinian feels well-connected to the island and its culture. He says his approach to winemaking has always been inclusive, with everyone in the business contributing to its success.

“My philosophy is to involve everyone in the journey from vine to bottle – from the viticulture and administration teams to the restaurant sommeliers and chefs. At the end of the day, we want everyone to take pride in what we produce.”

Alex is a big believer in hands-on qualifications and says the Competenz-designed Cellarhand Operations qualification is benefiting not just the cellarhands, but the whole Tantalus business.

“An entire winery benefits when a cellarhand is qualified,” he says. “People share their skills and knowledge with their colleagues throughout the company; the restaurant, winery, cellar door and vineyard. Even the brewery. Through the sharing of this knowledge and expertise, everyone has ownership in the finished product.

“We are lucky to have really good staff who are engaged. If you’re open to it, you never stop learning. It’s a bit contagious – people come here and then want to be winemakers, which is great and I think the best way to achieve that is through training on the job. At Tantalus, we encourage and support all of our staff to grow their skills.”

The NZ Certificate in Cellar Operations qualification starts at Level 3, providing a basic understanding of the wine industry, food production legislation, teamwork and cellar operations. As students move on, Levels 4 and 5 cover wine analysis, technical elements, grape processing, vintage operations and leadership. Each level takes around 12 months to complete.

“The qualification is both a great resource and investment,” adds Alex. “With its three levels, the course has a clear career pathway and presents a great opportunity for wineries of all sizes to invest in their staff at every level. Our cellarhands get involved in the cellar door promoting wine as well as in the vineyard. This way they get a more holistic knowledge of the winery business.

“I have noticed a difference in engagement with those staff doing a qualification and as a team, the course keeps us up to date with new regulations, especially now with health and safety and the impact of new technology on the industry. There is also an increased level of commitment and contribution to the winemaking process.”

For Alex, industry education isn’t confined to the winery and vineyard. His own passion for learning has led him to embark on study for the most prestigious wine qualification in the world, a Master of Wine.