The British wine company "International Exhibition Cooperative Wine Society" (IECWS) owes its existence to a large wine exhibition at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1874, to which numerous countries had delivered their wines. However, visitors took little notice, so Portuguese producers asked the British government for help. A series of lunches were then organized to publicize the wines. The organizers were the founding fathers who founded the Wine Society as a cooperative in the same year. That was finance officer George E. Scrivenor, ophthalmologist R. Brudenell Carter, and architect Henry Scott.
The main objective was to buy wines directly from the producer to ensure authenticity and quality and to offer them to members at fair prices. Norman MacLeod served as the first chairman. Incidentally, the famous wine author Edmund was the longest in office 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 four million bottles of wine can be stored in the temperature-controlled halls there, some of which are delivered with their own fleet of vans. The inventory includes over 800 wines from all over the world.
The association, known as the "Wine Society" for short, belongs to its members, whereby each member may only have one share certificate. Today such a one costs 40 EURO and leads to a lifelong membership without annual fee and without obligation to buy. There are no dividends, the unit certificates 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 earlier 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 around 100,000 active buy wines for around one million pounds each week. The wines must be paid for in cash immediately when ordering. With sales of over £ 50m, the Wine Society is one of the largest UK wine retailers. The current chair is Sarah Evans, the chief executive is Oliver Johnson. There is a similar, independent institution in Australia. See also under Wine-producing institutions