How I Lost My Thumb

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Here’s a story many have asked to hear, but I’ve shared with few. The story of how I lost my thumb.

As an individual, I’ve always loved being right in the heart of the action – but there are dangers to being a very hands on winemaker.

The year was 1977. It was a mere two weeks before my 21st birthday (and I remember that fact all too clearly). I was a viticultural student at Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute, and my vacation had just begun.

As a young boy, I’d always spent my free time helping my father Cyril on the Fairview farm, and this time round, he needed my help with bottling. Back then, the bottling line was a little less sophisticated than it is now, requiring more human intervention. As I had done many times before, I took to setting up the corking machine – a semi-automated apparatus that required a plunger to cork bottles. As these bad things tend to play out, I accidentally stood on the foot pedal, and so the plunger came down and crushed my thumb that was resting on the neck of the bottle.

Needless to say, that year was a very wet year, and as it turned out, the 1977 vintage wasn’t a particularly good one. In my opinion, it was actually one of the worst vintages ever, but some may say I’m biased. The good news is that since then, things have improved, and we’ve experienced lots of special vintages. I’d still give life a big thumbs up.

So as always, let’s celebrate the good things – to life!

Charles Back

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