In our 140th year we have
been looking back at our wine
Lists, the theme of the new
April List. As this year also
marks the centenary of the
outbreak of the Great War,
Sebastian Payne MW reflects
on our 1914 List.
There were 108 new members
elected to The Wine Society in
1914. The dominant profession was
medicine, not surprising since
The Society's offices were in the
headquarters of The Medical Society
of London in Chandos Street.
There was a fair mix of other
occupations as well and two names
most would recognise today, HG
Wells and John Galsworthy, both
of whom joined just before the war.
Membership recruitment remained
steady the next year but had dropped
to 36 by 1919, and did not pick up
again until 1921, coinciding with a
great vintage all over Europe.
The Wine Society's
December 1914 List
On the List, port took pride of place
with 34 entries, and in addition there
was a trailer for the 1912 vintage,
which could be seen as The Wine
Society's first en primeur offer. The
Society had been founded on the back
of a consignment of Portuguese wine
left over after the Exhibition of 1874,
successor to the Great Exhibition of
1851. The Bordeaux list was topped by
Montrose 1900, 'a very fine soft wine'
and Yquem 1901 ('fine bouquets
luscious') at 60 shillings a dozen.
Intriguingly, Château Ducru Beaucaillou appeared as a sparkling
white Médoc, 'a most interesting light
wine where Champagne is inadvisable'.
Ducru's current owner, Bruno Borie,
is clearly missing a sales opportunity.
Burgundies, apparently 'possess(ing)
more tannin and body than found in
claret' – and so almost certainly
bolstered with something from further
south – went back to Corton 1898.
View a PDF of the 1914 list
Germany well represented
In 1914 Germany was very well represented and included the most
expensive wine on the list,
Scharzhofberger Auslese 1907 at
68 shillings a dozen. There were a
couple of Hungarian wines, which
survived the cull of all German wines
from this list later in the war. Outside
Portugal and France the list had just
Chianti and Capri Bianco from Italy,
three Australians, five California
wines, Grand Canary and a good list
of whiskies, brandy and liqueurs.
By 1918 the wine list had been much
reduced, apart from a long and
impressive list of vintage ports.
Liqueurs and aperitifs had grown.
German wines came back in time for
the great 1921 vintage in 1923.
The back pages pictured The Society's
cellars in Hills Place, under the
Palladium, including the photograph
of one of the nine corridors in
The Society's 'Bin cellars' (as opposed
to Barrel cellar) which adorned the
cover of our recent January 2014 List.
At the beginning of Lists current
during the First World War was a
short history of The Wine Society
and 'Notes on Wine', explaining how
it was made and what to expect,
stressing the importance of proper
cellar accommodation. 'The modern
imperious demand for non-basement
villas, maisonettes and flats has sadly
curtailed the accommodation for
storing wines and spirits, while such
as is vouched for by the builder is too
often of the hole-and-corner type,
and liable to great variations of
temperature', the writer complained,
perhaps foreseeing the creation of our
Reserves cellars. The recommended
'Order of Serving Wine' gives a flavour
of the times:
- Sherry – As an appetiser
and with soup
- Hock, Moselle or light
Sauternes– With fish
- Sparkling white or still red
wines– With various meats
- Sauternes or sherry –
- Fine Cognac or Liqueur –
- Fine old bottle claret or
vintage port– With dessert
The newly published April-July List
celebrates the rich tradition of using
design and artwork on the cover of our
Lists which really took off in the 1960s.
Visit our website to view a gallery of
previous List covers and to see some
extracts from the 1914 List: