Where it all began
Back in the summer of 1874, deep in the cellars of the Royal Albert Hall, a special parcel of Portuguese wine lay, undiscovered…
The problem was, it shouldn't have been undiscovered at all. While the wines lay languishing below decks, one of a series of International Exhibitions was taking place in the grand halls above, with traders from around the globe showcasing their wares. The Portuguese growers who'd gone to a huge effort to ship their wines for the show were very upset, and swift action had to be taken to avoid a diplomatic incident: enter our founders Royal Albert Hall architect, Major-General Henry Scott and R. Brudenell Carter, a renowned ophthalmic surgeon.
Apparently when architects and eye surgeons collide, great things happen, and Scott and Brudenell set up a series of special lunches where the Portuguese wines were tasted. They were such a great success that they decided to go a step further: setting up a special organisation for wine lovers to try the best international wines at the fairest prices. Our objective? 'To introduce foreign wines hitherto unknown'.
Over 145 years later, we uphold the same pioneering spirit and founding belief that good wine from around the world shouldn't cost the earth.
We sign a lease on impressive cellars in Hills Place but bottles peacefully maturing there get a rude awakening in 1910 when the London Palladium is built directly over them!
The telephone arrives at The Society and in its first year 380 calls are taken and 340 made. Fast forward to 2020 and an outbound call count of 276,600.
Arthur Conan Doyle becomes the 3266th member of The Wine Society (so our wine can take some credit for inspiring his wonderful later works, right?)
Following the theft of a case of wine from a delivery van, The Society's first on-board guard dog is employed as a deterrent! Fortunately, our security methods are less barking nowadays… (sorry).
For the last 40-plus years, our distinctive red delivery vans and friendly drivers have been a welcome sight for members all across the country, with 30 vehicles across 11 different depots.
To coincide with our first claret En Primeur offer, we make private storage available to members for the first time. With a capacity of three million bottles, our ever-popular Members' Reserves is temperature and humidity controlled to make sure every bottle is perfect (including some bottles that are 50 years older than The Society itself!)
Due to increasing offshore demand, our dedicated Exports team is formed, delivering cheer to any worldwide destination where there's a member in need.
The greater economies of importing wine in bottle rather than in bulk signal the end of an era for the Stevenage bottling line. The last wine off the belt is The Society's Crusted Port (which still taste very good today!)
The Society is the first British merchant to open a Showroom across the Channel in France, where we continued to trade until 2016.
Our website is launched, allowing members to buy our wines online for the first time. Since then our digital developments have included a personalised member homepage, our new Discovery pages and our online Community.
The Society's new warehouse is completed, the highest of its kind in Europe. To pick from the top rack, our fork-lift trucks have to reach the equivalent to the combined height of two London Routemasters.
408 solar panels are installed at Stevenage, generating 80,000 KWh of electricity per year, in addition to other measures we're taking to reduce our carbon footprint. Peak time output is roughly equivalent to 100 simultaneously boiling kettles.
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