Thu 21 Jan 2016

100 Years Ago At The Society: The July 1916 List


1916 was one of the grimmest years in this country’s history, with the Easter rebellion in April, Jutland, the biggest naval battle in history at the end of May and on July 1st the Battle of the Somme began with the greatest number of casualties in British military history (60,000).

But you would learn none of this from looking, as I have, at The Wine Society’s July 1916 List.

Most wines at this period would have been shipped in cask and have been bottled in The Society’s Cellars in Hills Place, under The Palladium.

Most wines at this period would have been shipped in cask and bottled in The Society’s cellars in Hills Place, under The Palladium.

Attention is drawn to a separate list of 1912 vintage port for laying down, before a list of no fewer than 36 vintage ports going back to 1896. So our oldest ally was well represented.

More surprising are five Marsalas, ‘by many considered more wholesome than sherry’. The sherry list includes Paxarette (very fine old). ‘Much in fashion in Spanish and other Court circles; it is generally taken with Brandy’.

We are told that ‘a good claret should be dry and soft’ and the range goes back to château-bottled Langoa Barton 1899 and Château Léoville Barton 1896. I was puzzled to read that ‘Burgundy possesses more tannin and body than are to be found in claret and is therefore a powerful stimulant’ and rather wondered what the negociants of the day had mixed in with it.

Though we had been at war for two years there are 22 entries under Germany, including Schloss Johannisberg 1908 and Scharzhofberger Auslese 1907, which at 68 shillings per dozen were the most expensive still wines on the list. Hungary too gets a Carlovitz Auslese and Somlau Auslese, as many as Italy with a Chianti and Capri Bianco. Italy declared war on Germany that August. Canary Sac, Australia (three entries) and California (four) are all represented and there are over a dozen liqueurs.

The popularity of The Society’s own Special Highland Blend whisky ‘continues to increase steadily with export orders to India, The Cape, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and elsewhere’, which must have been complicated logistically.

The Committee of Management were not young and almost completely London based, which probably reflected the average too of the 107 new members elected that year, of whom three quarters came from London and the south-east. 15 new members were in the military but probably too old for active service.

Nine new members were widows, the only possible clue to what was happening on the continent.

Sebastian Payne MW
Society Buyer

For a look back at our 1914 List, see Wines On The Brink Of War.

The Society’s February 2016 List will be arriving on members’ doorsteps mid February.

Categories : Miscellaneous


  1. Richard Morris says:

    No scans? Not difficult to do.

  2. Rob Watt says:

    It would be interesting to know whether the German wines were still selling. Having dealings with anything German was regarded by many as traitorous. After all, the monarchy has been forced to change its name from Battenberg, German Shepherds had been renamed Alsatians, and so on, all to avoid the slightest taint of having German sympathies. In many circles it would have been a rash act to offer German wine to guests. I suppose TWS deserves credit for not removing the German wines from the list for the duration.

    • Dr G Kew says:

      TWS was probably taken by surprise as many people were by the speedy declaration of War in 1914. With extensive stocks to sell, TWS naturally kept German wines on the list. It would be interesting to know whether they were sold off at a discount because of anti-German sentiment. Luxuries were starting to get hard to come by and the situation got worse as the months went by. Canny buyers may have bought them and got their butlers to decant them so as not to upset the composure of guests!

  3. Stephen says:

    It would be great if you could upload a pdf version of this list as it would be interesting to read it.

    • Bruce Garner says:

      I agree with Stephen. A pdf version, if at all possible, please!
      I would love to be able to show the contents to a dear friend – a very savvy 91 year old – who was a Master of Wine and who was ‘in the business’ for most of his working life. I have seen photographs of his personal wine cellar, replete with the finest French wines of the late 1800s/early 1900s – a joy to behold (and to drink, no doubt!!)

  4. Adrian Padfield says:

    Wasn’t it well known that Burgundy benefited from strengthening (!) with Rhone? Even clarets used Rhone I’ve heard..
    Were the German wines the most expensive because extra tax was added?
    Actually the Royal family changed from Saxe Coburg Gotha to Windsor and the Battenbergs to Mountbatten.

  5. Alan Thomson says:

    Great post from Sebastian Payne – very interesting

  6. Trevor Jones says:

    What a fascinating article and so typical of Sebastian whose eye for quality and interesting wines has never wavered.

  7. Anthony Moody says:

    Did the Society have to have any certification to hold and/or prove that it had bought the German wines before the Declaration of War? Certain Stocks/Bonds had to have certification attached to the Stock Certificates to prove they were held but not from trading with the enemy post the Declaration.

    • Sebastian Payne MW says:

      Thanks for your comment. We are unable to find any documentation from the period about this, but do note the following, from Edmund Penning-Rowsell’s ‘A Short History of The Wine Society’, which we hope is of some interest:

      ‘The only other notable event of the First World War was the ‘patriotic’ disposal in 1917 of the entire stock of German wines on The Society’s list! When peace returned, the Committee, in spite of some questioning, was clearly firmly against replacing them, and “Australian and other Colonial wines” took their place. Not until the Autumn of 1921 was the decision not to stock German wines, reversed – just in time for the greatest German wine vintage of the century.’

      Another interesting comment about WW1 in the same document is as follows:

      ‘The Committee reacted to the outbreak of the First World War by meeting, unprecedentedly, in August and thereafter asking members to restrict their orders “to 3 dozen wine and brandy and 1 dozen Champagne, at one time”. But by March 1915 these not very onerous restrictions had been lifted and not until 1917, when the Government began seriously to restrict imports, was it agreed to admit no more members’.

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