The Vineline

Era 1: 1874 -1924

The first 50 years of our history from our chance beginnings to becoming a professional wine merchant, exploring the stories of the people who shaped us and the key moments in our early years.

Images from our Vineline appear on the labels of our limited-edition Generation Series wines.

Where it all began

Where it all began

In an early form of crowdfunding, a group of like-minded individuals clubbed together to buy up barrels of wine left over from the International Exhibition of 1874 held in the Albert Hall. Just like today’s members, our founders knew a good thing when they tasted it and also had the foresight to set up our nascent Wine Society as a ‘friendly society’. They also laid down core objectives that have stood the test of time and helped us become the unique organisation we are today.


What were we drinking?

What were we drinking?

The first wine bought by The Wine Society was Bucellas, or ‘Portuguese Hock’, a wine popular in Victorian Britain. Spanish wine made up the second order and by 1876 there were 63 items on the List, including Port, sherry, Champagne, claret, Burgundy, German wine and spirits. But there were soon wines from much further afield – Asia Minor, Australia, Palestine and California, as well as high-end Greek and Hungarian wines. New additions were ‘tested’ rather than tasted by the Committee, wine adulteration being common. In 1906 we bought our first bubbles from Gratien, who’ve helped toast significant moments in members’ lives ever since.

From a coal cellar to the Palladium

From a coal cellar to the Palladium

When permission to store wine in the vaults at the Albert Hall was denied we moved into humble coal cellars beneath the Medical Society of London in Chandos Street, also our first office. In 1902 a 21-year lease was taken out on cellars in Hills Place only to have the Palladium built above them eight years later, raising the temperature and anxiety of the Committee! Clearly, we were very proud of our new cellars with coloured photos appearing in Lists as early as 1911.


Famous faces

We wouldn’t have come into being if it wasn’t for pioneers like Major General Henry Scott, engineer and architect of the Albert Hall and a true Victorian ‘man of parts’. Our early membership was made up of many such trailblazers, artists and thought-provokers. It’s fun to speculate on the conversations that went on over early wine gatherings between former prime minister Earl Russell, polymath Herbert Spencer, writer Arthur Conan Doyle and famous singer Louise Kirkby-Lunn. Its pleasing to imagine that wine played a part in opening the minds and nourishing the spirits of these early Wine Society members and those of generations to come.


View the Vineline

The Vineline charts our history from our beginnings in 1874 all the way to the present day. You can view the first 50 years by clicking the link below - and there's more to come as we celebrate our 150th year.


The Generation Series

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