'Sussex Wine Appreciation Society (SWAS)'

Some notes to record and clarify just what SWAS is all about!


The Society was created in about 1975/6 when Henry Butler of Butler’s Wine Cellar in Brighton started tastings to attract custom. A newspaper report at the time suggests that its popularity grew “out of control” and the tastings were hived off to create the Society. It has continued very much in its original form ever since.


Our current membership is 30+, gathered from a catchment area extending from Rustington to Seaford, and to Henfield in the North. Like any club, our membership has waxed and waned over the years and we are always looking for new members to replace those who have moved from the area and are no longer able to attend our tastings. The annual membership fee is currently £3 for one person, or £5 for a couple. These funds contribute towards the production and distribution of “Bin Ends” described below and to help cover the costs of our website.


Our tastings, which are always informal and relaxed, are generally held on the first Saturday of each month in the home of a volunteer member. We normally have a programme of 8/9 wines, of which 3 are white and 5/6 are red, although this is not cast in stone. The host will make appropriate comments on each wine and a general discussion will ensue. The tasting is followed by a meal which is entirely at the discretion of the host(s). Members are informed by the “Bin Ends” email of the food that will be available at each Tasting. In recent years we have normally enjoyed a simple hot meal followed by cheeses and pudding – the Menu is always at the discretion of the host(s). There are no fixed rules…!


On average, each member hosts a tasting once every 12 to 15 months and, for that tasting, is responsible for choosing the overall subject matter, the constituent wines and for providing an end of tasting meal for all attendees. However, there is no obligation ever to hold a tasting, it is a matter of choice. The Society operates on a non-profit making basis and therefore the cost of the wine and food is apportioned amongst those taking part in the tasting. Experience shows that an average cost of around £20-£25 per person is normal, although this varies according to the cost of the wines. At present there is an included food allowance of £8 per person attending (not including the host/s who does/do not pay for the evening). There is a minimum number of 10 for people attending tastings and generally 16 people is the most that can be accommodated depending on the space available in our hosts’ homes.

Our activities are promulgated in a “Bin Ends” email which is sent to members as appropriate with details of the next Tasting, showing the title, the venue, the time (normally 19.30hrs) and the cost per person. Those wishing to attend the advertised tasting are asked to pay by bank transfer after informing the Secretary by email of their wish to attend. Numbers attending each tasting are generally restricted to a maximum of 16, plus the hosts, with allocation of the places being in order of receipt of payment. We also have a website at www.swas.club/ where previous and future tastings are recorded.

Day to day running of SWAS is by our Secretary and our Treasurer. Each is an annual appointment voted for by members at the SWAS AGM held in December each year.

As of 7th December 2019 our Secretary is Mike Brook (Sec.SWAS@btinternet.com) and our Treasurer is Alex Wagstaff (alexwagstaff@virginmedia.com). All correspondence should, however, be directed to our Secretary who also coordinates our Tasting Calendar.

Our website can always be found at http://www.swas.club



Some SWAS History:

19 January 2016

Janis & Bill have been sorting through some old SWAS documents and came up with the following for which Bill provides an introduction:

"I have recently been looking back on some of the "historic" SWAS tastings. This was due to Janis finding some old tasting notes from events before we joined. There are a few surprises!

There seemed to be a tradition that most tastings involved an average of 9/10 wines. They were not always presented in the now common, 3 whites and the rest red, format. Indeed, one tasting was all white wines.

I had thought it was only recently that we had begun to try more expensive wines. The first few tastings we attended had mainly sub £10 supermarket wines but, in the past, the boat was sometimes fully pushed out.

For example, in January 2001, a tasting at Shirley Oliver’s house included:

    A white Margaux @ £32.95

    A St. Emilion Premier Grand Cru @ £27.72

    A red Margaux @ £32.09


    A Pessac Leognan (Château Pape Clement) at a mighty £44.95!!!

(Was that the most expensive SWAS ever?)

The April 2007 Tasting at Seaford had 9 wines of which 8 were over the £20 mark

The tasting lists which survive are as below:

  March 2000 - 4 Reds & 6 Whites (Australia) (Jill and Bryan)

  January 2001 - 5 Reds & 3 Whites (Bordeaux) (Shirley)

  March 2001 - 9 Wines (mix unclear) (Rhone; Paul Jaboulet) (Jill and Bryan)

  June 2001 - 8 Reds & 3 Whites (Argentina) (Irvine and Joan)

  July 2001 - 8 Wines All Reisling! (Venue unknown)

  October 2001 - 6 Reds & 2 Whites (Mixed origin) (David and Lyn)

  January 2002 - 7 Reds & 3 Whites (Rhône) (Shirley)

  July 2002 - 5 Reds & 6 Whites (NZ) (Venue unknown)

  March 2004 - 4 Reds & 6 White/Rosé (Latin America) (Jill and Bryan)

  August 2004 - 6 Reds & 4 Whites (Mixed origin) (Michael and Sheila)

  April 2007 - 9 Wines Burgundy (Mix unclear) ( Irvine and Joan)

  February 2008 - 6 Whites & 4 Reds (California) (Jill and Bryan)"

If anyone else has any 'historic' SWAS documents, please share them with us!

Page last updated 09/12/2019

If you would like to find out more about us or to enquire about joining please contact our Secretary, Mike Brook, at email: Sec.SWAS@btinternet.com

SWAS Contact details:

Our Secretary,Mike Brook, can be contacted at email: Sec.SWAS@btinternet.com

We'll post the full details of our future Tasting Dates on our home page as each is confirmed