Our Heritage

Our Heritage

Whether we're sourcing our members' new favourite wines from an artisan producer in Bordeaux, blending Society exclusives with maverick growers in the new world, or following our instincts to scout out the best new producers from off the beaten track, we've spent over a century forging relationships with growers who share our passion for quality at every price.

Where it all began

'Foreign wines hitherto unknown…'

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.


Royal Albert Hall

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.


Our History: Over 145 years of good wine

London Palladium

1902:

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!

1905:

The telephone arrives at The Society and in its first year 380 calls are taken and 340 made. Fast forward to 2018 and an outbound call count of 82000.

Telephone
Arthur Conan Doyle

1910:

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?)

1918:

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).

The Society's first on-board guard dog
Delivery vans

1971:

For the last 40-plus years, our distinctive red delivery vans and friendly drivers have been a welcome site for members all across the country, with 22 vehicles across 7 different depots covering 80% of our membership across the UK.

1975:

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!)

En Primeur
Export

1989:

Due to increasing offshore demand, our dedicated Exports team is formed, delivering cheer to any worldwide destination where there's a member in need.

1992:

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!)

Importing wine
Montreuil

1993:

The Society is the first British merchant to open a Showroom across the Channel in France, where we continued to trade until 2016.

1999:

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.

Website launched
Warehouse

2008:

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.

2012:

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.

Solar Panels

2019:

To celebrate over 145 years as a mutual, The Society commissions a design co-operative to create a very special Annual Review cover and video to go along with it.


Our List

Our iconic List has been helping members navigate our eclectic wine range for well over a century. We've always championed talented artists and illustrators, as you can see from this collection of List covers from our archive. They don't just show the evolution of graphic design, which took off particularly in the 1960s, but also gives a glimpse of key moments in our history and the rich tradition of commissioning original artwork for our covers.



List cover gallery

December 1880

December 1880

July 1914

July 1914

June 1940

June 1940

February 1950

February 1950

Summer 1956

Summer 1956

Spring 1959

Spring 1959

Summer 1959

Summer 1959

Winter 1959

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Autumn 1962

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February 1965

February 1965

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May 1966

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Spring 1967

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Autumn 1967

Winter 1967

Winter 1967

Spring 1968

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Summer 1968

Summer 1968

Autumn 1968

Autumn 1968

Christmas List 1968

Christmas List 1968

February 1969

February 1969

Spring 1969

Spring 1969

Summer 1969

Summer 1969

Autumn 1969

Autumn 1969

January 1970

January 1970

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October 1988

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October 1989

April 1990

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October 1990

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October 2000

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June 2002

October 2002

October 2002

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August 2003

August 2003

Christmas List 2003

Christmas List 2003

January 2004

January 2004

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April 2004

August 2004

August 2004

Christmas List 2004

Christmas List 2004

January 2005

January 2005

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July 2005

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Christmas List 2005

Christmas List 2005

January 2006

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Christmas List 2006

Christmas List 2006

January 2007

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July 2007

July 2007

Christmas List 2007

Christmas List 2007

January 2008

January 2008

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April 2008

July 2008

July 2008

Christmas List 2008

Christmas List 2008

January 2009

January 2009

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April 2009

July 2009

July 2009

Christmas List 2009

Christmas List 2009

January 2010

January 2010

April 2010

April 2010

July 2010

July 2010

Christmas List 2010

Christmas List 2010

January 2011

January 2011

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April 2011

July 2011

July 2011

Christmas List 2011

Christmas List 2011

January 2012

January 2012

April 2012

April 2012

July 2012

July 2012

Christmas List 2012

Christmas List 2012

January 2013

January 2013

April 2013

April 2013

July 2013

July 2013

Christmas List 2013

Christmas List 2013

January 2014

January 2014

April 2014

April 2014

July 2014

July 2014

Christmas List 2014

Christmas List 2014

January 2015

January 2015

April 2015

April 2015

July 2015

July 2015

Christmas List 2015

Christmas List 2015

February 2016

February 2016

May 2016

May 2016

July 2016

July 2016

Christmas List 2016

Christmas List 2016

February 2017

February 2017

May 2017

May 2017

July 2017

July 2017

Christmas List 2017

Christmas List 2017

February 2018

February 2018

May 2018

May 2018

July 2018

July 2018

Christmas List 2018

Christmas List 2018

February 2019

February 2019

May 2019

May 2019



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Members before profit
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