Americas Boston

History of the Boston Branch

History of the Boston Branch

André Simon established the International Wine & Food Society in London, during 1933, the year which also marked the end of Prohibition in the United States.  Simon’s new International organization, which was devoted to the appreciation of fine wines and good food, kindled the hope that a similar community of interest would soon develop on this side of the Atlantic.  In 1934, Simon made plans to visit America to test the idea of creating American branches of the IW&FS.  He described his visits to the United States in his book In The Twilight. 

After his initial visit to New York, Simon proceeded to Boston, where he found a small, but active fine-wines dining group already in existence, which was interested in affiliating with the IW&FS.  We have always believed that Boston was actually the first U.S. branch which was organized, followed by New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New Orleans – all launched in 1935 - but there is no agreement on that.

Simon’s visit to Boston was indeed a success.  The Boston Branch grew strongly following World War II.  In those days, the yearly format included one formal dinner and several tastings which were always held at the Ritz under the watchful eye of Charlie Bonino (the Food and Beverage Director of the Hotel) who sponsored and subsidized the events.  The first President of the Boston Branch was Gus Loring, Senior.  Bob Cronin acted as President from the early sixties to the mid-seventies, and remained an active force within the Branch for many years.

 In 1969, a career change caused Dr. Robert Charpie to leave Chicago, where he was a Branch member, to take up residency in Boston.  He soon became Program Chairman and then the President of the Boston Branch.  He was centrally involved in its activities for much of the next three decades.  During this period, the program was expanded to one event per month, including more dinners and an increasing variety of special events and locations.

 Dr. Charpie was elected as Chairman of the Wine & Food Society of North America (now, the Wine & Food Society of The Americas) in 1976, a position he held until 1986.  He then became the Chairman of the International Society in 1986, and served in that capacity until 1992, when he became the worldwide President.  He served as President of the IW&FS, worldwide, until 2000.  Once free of his international presidential commitment (although still involved in the planning of International Festivals), he listened to the urgings of the Boston membership and again picked up the reins of the Boston Branch.

One enduring legacy of Boston’s role in the IW&FS involved the International and Regional Festivals which have become a popular addition to the world schedule.  Until 1979 these Festivals had shown widely varying financial performances.  Since they involved a huge commitment of the Society’s capital and management each time one was organized, the resulting financial swings threatened the very existence of the IW&FS.  Through the leadership of the Boston Branch, the International Wine & Food Foundation of America was created as a non-profit corporation, managed from Boston, to provide working capital, financing and experienced management to the Festivals.  The Boston Branch, along with New York, San Francisco, Puerto Rico and Swedish branches, have continually supplied large contingents of participants to these popular international extravaganzas.