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The Wine Society celebrates 150th anniversary with new series

The launch of the initial 11 wines in the celebratory Generation Series is the first of many initiatives to mark the retailer’s landmark anniversary.

The launch, on 10 January, of the first 11 wines in The Wine Society’s Generation Series marked the beginning of a celebratory year, commemorating the retailer’s 150th anniversary, packed with special activities and limited releases.

In addition to the release of the two special ranges created specifically for – and only available during – the 150th anniversary, 2024 will see The Wine Society (The Society) host its biggest-ever programme of tastings, exhibitions and events.

The business will also launch The Society’s Climate & Nature Programme, through which the company’s suppliers will be able to access £60,000 to implement sustainability initiatives in their vineyards. The programme will be an annual fund, open for applications each January, with this year’s winners announced in May.

Founded in 1874 by Major General Henry Scott, architect of the Royal Albert Hall, and R. Brudenell Carter, a renowned ophthalmic surgeon, The Society introduced an innovative importing and trading model based on a close relationship with both producers and consumers. The world’s oldest member-owned wine community remains one of the most consistent sources of quality wine, at notoriously good value, in the UK market, thanks to longstanding partnerships with producers worldwide and to the talent of its award-winning buying team.

The relevance of the celebration perhaps goes well beyond the walls of The Society itself; it serves as a timely overview and assessment of the history of British wine trade throughout 150 years of many troubles and tribulations. The Society’s history is one of perseverance, pioneering but also survival – a cautionary tale as well as a beacon of hope in the face of today’s testing challenges.

Generation Series: Snippets of history

With four releases scheduled, each covering a half-century of The Society’s history, the Generation Series is a product of a fascinating research exercise. Buyer Matthew Horsley perused The Society’s original lists, dating back to 1880, to discover the essence of each era.

‘Back in early 2020 I started poring over old lists to find the wines, styles, regions and producers that dominated and defined each 50-year-period of The Society, immersing myself in what members of the time would have enjoyed, before putting together a shopping list and letting our team of buyers loose,’ Horsley explains.

Each buyer then worked with selected producers – all of whom play an important role, in one way or another, in The Society’s catalogue and identity – to craft each of the wines in the collection.

A section of The Society’s 150th Anniversary Vine Line

The labels of the Generation Series show relevant snippets of the impressive 150th anniversary Vine Line, a visual chronology of the last one and a half centuries. It shows the key moments in The Society’s trajectory and the most relevant references in the company’s lists, against the backdrop of contemporary historical events. The first release – 11 wines, available since 10 January (see tasting notes below) – reflects the listings that defined the period between 1874 and 1924.

The second release, in March 2024, will cover the following half-century (1924–1974), followed by a third batch, in June, for the wines covering the years between 1974 and 2024. The Series’ launch will close with a final release, in September, with wines that anticipate what the next 50 years might have in store.

All wines in the Generation Series are priced under £20 and ready to drink now (although some, as mentioned in the notes below, have some potential to age in bottle). A great opportunity to access limited edition wines, produced by some of the world’s most renowned and idiosyncratic winemakers, without breaking the bank.

Anniversary Series: Affordable exclusivity

Complementary to the Generation Series, the Anniversary collection, which will be made available to members in March, is a fine wine range, spearheaded by buyer Sarah Knowles MW. Since 2014 the buying team has been sourcing wines to be aged by The Society and ready for release in 2024. ‘The collection features some first-time collaborations between producers, as well as one-off bottlings,’ Knowles explains. ‘The wines reflect the very best fine wine styles across the world today, chosen for their ability to mature and improve with bottle age.’

But the commitment to value and affordability remains, with the team favouring more accessible styles within the fine wine spectrum (think Ridge’s Zinfandel, rather than Cabernet Sauvignon or Fontodi’s Chianti Classico in lieu of Gran Selezione). ‘The Society is well placed to be able to secure top cuvées from a strong and loyal set of suppliers who were delighted to have been asked to provide special bottles for our members to enjoy and celebrate with,’ Knowles adds.

One of the main things to celebrate this year is, precisely, the spirit of community and collaboration The Society has fostered since its inception. An important message in these troubled times.

The Wine Society’s Generation Series – First release

All wines tasted 27 November 2023. Prices do not reflect any special or multi-buy offers.
Prices are accurate at the time of writing.

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