The Winchester Wine Appreciation Society started life as the Andover Wine Appreciation Society, which was formed in 1983 by like-minded people who appreciated good wine.
The first tasting was held in The Keys Restaurant, Andover, which was owned by Walter and Pam Bernard. Twenty two members sampled a selection of nine wines from the Rhine and Mosel areas of Germany.
Founder members included Dr. Tony Greig and Walter Bernard. Tony had a Practice in Andover and a well established interest in wines from student days. Walter was a restaurateur, wine merchant and broker. He was also an Evening Standard Wine Taster.
Tastings were held on the second Monday of every month. Over the next few years, membership of the Society expanded to over 30. In 1986 Walter retired from the restaurant business. This prompted the Society to move its meetings temporarily to the Fiesta Hall, Andover and from January 1987 to a meeting room in Andover Museum, where it remained for the following twelve months.
In 1988 the Society moved to a room at the Weyhill Fair Public House. Landlord John Featherby was a member of the Society. When John left the pub in 1989 the Society moved again, this time to the White Hart Inn at Stockbridge. This change in location was influenced by a demographic change in membership, with more members living in the Stockbridge area than in Andover.
During the period 1986 to 1992 the Society became well established. As well as continuing with monthly tastings of wines from around the world, groups of members enjoyed trips to many of the near continent wine areas including Alsace, Champagne, Burgundy and the Rhône Valley. Summer parties held in the gardens of members’ homes and annual dinners at local restaurants were also welcome additions to the programme of events.
In 1992 Walter Bernard was invested as the Society’s first President, in recognition of his outstanding services. The following year the Society celebrated its 10th anniversary with a superb gourmet dinner accompanied by some excellent wines at Cricklade College, Andover. The event was attended by many past and present members of the Society with their guests. Missing from the list of attendees was the Society’s honoured President, Walter Bernard, who had sadly died in October 1993. With the loss of such an important link with Andover, coupled with a continuing demographic shift southwards, the Society decided to move its base to Winchester.
After a short stay at the Hampshire Club, the Society moved to its present venue at the Hotel du Vin in May 1995. At the same time the Society changed its name to the Winchester Wine Appreciation Society. Its association with the Hotel du Vin has proved to be mutually beneficial.
The Society has benefited by being able to attract leading Masters of Wine, wine producers, importers and retailers to present tastings. These continue to be both entertaining and educational, attributes much better enjoyed when shared in good company.
Links with the Society’s origins are maintained through the continued membership of Doctor Alex Armstrong, who joined the Society in May 1984 soon after coming to work in Andover. He still regularly attends the Society’s events, travelling to Winchester from Andover in all weathers.