A Brief History of the Wessex Wine Society
The Society has its roots in the market town of Warminster where, in the late 1980s, several staff members of the National Trust Regional Office at Stourhead were attending evening classes on wine appreciation. Their love of wine had led them to establish a strong link with an independent wine merchant in Mere, a village near their Stourhead office. One member of the wine merchants staff, Lucinda Whatley, was studying with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust aiming to become a Master of Wine. and to help her studies, she was seeking to teach an interested group. When she mentioned it, she found willing participants in the students who nearly all readily volunteered
Meetings were held initially on an ad hoc basis at Lucinda’s house or that of her parents. Eventually, a small committee was formed and tastings were held more regularly on a monthly basis. More members were recruited through friends, neighbours and the wine merchant such that by the early the 1990s there were some 30 members. The Memorial Hall at Stourhead became the meeting venue to accommodate the increased membership. It soon became clear that these regular monthly meetings were perhaps too frequent, particularly during the summer because of members other commitments. So it was agreed that meetings were arranged only for the winter months, a programme that continues today.
After some years Lucinda decided to leave the wine trade and the Society. Barry Treadwell, one of the original members, became Chairman ably helped by a committee of volunteer members some of whom have loyally supported the Society for many years and still do. After some two score years Barry stood down and handed over to Peter Bennett. Peter had worked for a number of years with Berry Bros & Rudd, the well-known wine merchants of Pall Mall, then, as an independent wine merchant in Shaftesbury. Peter’s reign as chairman ended in 2017 handing over to a small committee who are in the hot seat now!
It is thanks to the leadership of these founding members that we continue to exist today. We must not forget their supportive committees carrying out all the routine tasks that ensured the meetings run smoothly. Many of the tastings arranged by Lucinda and her wine trade contacts still provide some of our tastings today. The Society has always offered a very varied programme covering the widest possible wine world. Our programme continues to evolve with new presenters and the occasional surprise change from the normal. We also have tastings presented by volunteer and valiant! Members, the occasional quiz (light-hearted variety), and we have a dinner to end the season.
Over the years membership has grown and is increasing as our popularity increases. We aim to have a maximum of around fifty members attending our normal meetings and whilst people come and go, we always welcome new members..