The Winetasters grew out of an earlier wine society, The Schoolmasters’ Wine Club, which was founded in 1948 by a group of teachers interested in the wines of France. Francis Cammaerts, who had resumed his career in education after becoming a wartime hero of the French resistance, suggested forming a club to expand members’ wine knowledge and import supplies at affordable prices.
The idea was a hit, and the new club’s membership soon ran into thousands. Quickly the idea of having tastings and dinners arose, and later began a long series of tours to the wine-growing regions of Europe.
As wine became more widely available on the UK market the need for the club’s buying activities diminished, and the time came to replace it with a small society for those who enjoyed the tastings and tours. So the Winetasters came into existence in 1966 and have flourished ever since, with a membership usually less than 100.
For many years we were lucky to have as our mentor Freddy Price, one of the great characters of the UK wine trade. Freddy would lead most of our tastings, and his wide range of contacts across Europe allowed tour participants to visit many vineyards and cellars that other wine clubs don’t reach! Since Freddy’s retirement we have become more independent: we seek out interesting guest presenters, and have our own wine and knowledge resources to fill the gaps. And while we no longer run tours, in recent years we’ve enjoyed several weekends away for tastings and dinners.
In 2020, the Covid pandemic has forced us to open a new chapter in our history, but it’s already a successful one. We’re still running our regular meetings, but online and virtually, using the Zoom Web conferencing tool and mailing out the wines in secure test tubes. The early events have been great fun!
If you’d like to know more, then the history and activities of the Schoolmasters' Wine Club and the Winetasters are comprehensively described in The Winetasters: the History of a Sociable Wine Club, with Diversions (2013), written by Charles Gibson, a member since 1964.