The British wine company "International Exhibition Cooperative Wine Society" (IECWS) owes its existence to a major wine exhibition at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1874, to which numerous countries had delivered their wines. However, the visitors took little notice of it so that the Portuguese producers asked for help from the British government. As a result, a number of lunches were organized to promote the wines. The organizers were the founding fathers, who founded the Wine Society as a cooperative in the same year. That was the financial officer George E. Scrivenor, the ophthalmologist R. Brudenell Carter and the architect Henry Scott.
The main objective was to buy wines directly from the producer to ensure the authenticity and quality and to offer them to the members at fair prices. The first chairman was Norman MacLeod. Incidentally, the longest was the famous wine author Edmund Penning-Rowsell
(1913-2002) from 1964 to 1987. During his tenure, in 1965, he moved from London to a purpose built building in Stevenage. Around 4 million bottles of wine can be stored in the temperature-controlled halls there, some of which are delivered with their own delivery fleet. The stock contains over 800 wines from all over the world.
The association, known as the "Wine Society", belongs to its members, whereby each member may only own one unit certificate. Such a one costs today 40 EURO and causes a lifelong membership without annual fee and without compulsory purchase. There are no dividends, the shares can be inherited. The only condition for membership is a minimum age of 18 years. New members are either proposed by members or an application is made. Famous members of early years were the Sherlock Holmes author Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1939), the inventor of the penicillin Alexander Fleming (1881-1955) and the English Prime Minister Lord John Russel (1792-1878). There are a total of 300,000 members worldwide, of whom about 100,000 buy active wines per week for about one million pounds. The wines must be paid immediately when ordering in cash. With sales of over £ 50 million, Wine Society is one of the UK's largest wine retailers. Current Chairman is Sarah Evans, Chief Executive is Oliver Johnson. Australia has a similar, independent institution. See also below Wine-producing institutions