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Buying/Selling Members Reserves

@ANoble I’m in exactly the same situation as you with wines in the UK and living in Europe. The plan was always to move my reserves over to Sweden before Brexit, but I never accounted for the arrival of COVID which prevented me from travelling. Now that restrictions have eased, I recently drove back to the UK (primarily to see family I should add!) - but I took the opportunity to take out about 70 bottles from reserves and collected them on my way back to the ferry. Customs at the Hook of Holland weren’t interested and I took the chance of not declaring the wine.

I came to the conclusion that this is pretty much the only viable option in the current circumstances, so made a holiday of the trip.

There’s still a fair amount in reserves too, so I imagine this will become an annual event :grinning:


Well, I finally made my trip to the UK via Hook of Holland. I returned with 60 bottles of wine and declared them on disembarkation, so I’m sharing my (overall good) experience of the Dutch customs people.

  1. The Dutch customs were unprepared for the import of wine from the UK. Indeed they looked a little shocked when I opened my car boot and it was full of wine (I have a small car!)

  2. I was asked to wait until they processed all the other contraband smugglers. The worst part being told to drive to and wait in the “car park of shame” thus looking like a true criminal.

  3. A key concern for customs was whether the wine was for own consumption or re-sale. I did show them an email from the Wine Society however, I think they simply concluded that 60 bottles was low enough to class as “own consumption”.

  4. The customs people explained that they weren’t sure what the fee should be hence the wait. In chatting they also mentioned that because I had self-declared there was no fine (!!)

  5. I eventually paid just over 1€ per litre, minus my EU allowance of 4 litres and was on my way.

In conclusion, the Dutch customs were not interested in the value of the wine, rather the volume which is calculated per litre. The process of declaring was straight forward and worth doing to avoid a fine (although I’ve no idea how much the fine is) and it’s worth having something to hand that will help prove the wine is for ones own consumption.


Glad you had a good trip, and thanks for sharing your experiences. I will definitely be making the same trip again next year, so it’s good to understand the process. For around 1 euro a litre I agree it’s not worth the risk of a fine, and is significantly cheaper than any other option for repatriating wine to Europe!


Apologies if the answer lies somewhere above, but does anyone know if the same customs/import charges would apply if having wine shipped from the UK to the Netherlands?

Obviously there expensive shipping fees to consider (I was quoted about £200 for 60 bottles) but I’m more interested in the charges which are applied when the wine enters the country.

I’m expecting to move to the Netherlands at some point in the medium term so it’s something to consider when deciding whether to continue to buy wine to place in reserves or not!

I may be way off beam here, but can’t you transfer IB wines across jurisdctions without having to pay fees beyond transfer? (This assumes you store your reserves under bond and can find an appropriate bonded warehouse to store in in Holland of course).

My view is that it would be nice to have a secondary market amongst members where the sales price was effectively cost plus any duty, VAT and storages charges.

TWS gets first dibs on buying back the product (say a 48-hr window) and then if not it’s added to the site and open to all members.

There’s a host of reasons why members may no longer require the wine. I assume the above methodology would end up being a nice perk of membership.

TWS gets:

  1. Volume still goes through TWS in order to allow buyer relationships and discounts to remain intact.
  2. Storage fees.
  3. Another reason to join.
  4. Potentially some profit on decently aged wine.

The above methodology would also discourage any speculation but allow a little more flexibility in managing reserves.


Please forgive me if I have missed something, but I don’t understand how you would have this:

If you also have this:

So the start point was that TWS get’s first dibs - they can then chose whatever price to sell it at hence the “potentially some profit on decently aged wine”.

Under the proposed system where that was the max sales price.

So selling member gets: cost plus any duty, VAT and storages charges. (so no financial loss).

TWS: maybe can make a small profit.

Other member who purchases (if TWS do not take up their option to buy back): get a decent bargain.

e.g. I have 6x Warwick Trilogy 2011 purchased in 2017 at a cost of 117 sat in reserves. They are today selling at 198. I bought four years ago so storage has been about 18.50. So total cost of 135.50.

My proposal would be that it would be sold to either TWS (who could then resell at 198 if they wish) or to another member at 135.50.

Seems a bit of a win-win for everyone.

You maybe cap it to a limit each member can trade each year to prevent people taking the mick. Maybe 24 bottles/year?

It seems to me that rarely would someone sell an INSANE bargain through this method, but equally allows for some wine regrets (if such a thing exists) to be reversed and allows some pruning of unwanted reserves. I kind of feel that its inline with the spirit of the society/community too.

Maybe you include a transaction fee in her somewhere too - say 10 quid per case so TWS can cover costs.

Does that make more sense?


Money illusion in play here. It takes no account of the time value of money/inflation. If you held a wine for say 10 years in Reserves, then in the original cost of that will have fallen in real terms. In other words, the seller will have lost out in purchasing power, the buyer gets a free lunch basically.

Take the period from 2010 to 2020, which was fairly muted for inflation (2.7% p.a. compound rate), then a £10 bottle of wine then would cost £13 now, using the assumption that wine prices moved in line with RPI. That price would be the in bond price. Under your proposal, the buyer also gets the benefit of paying VAT on the lower price…rather than the market price today, which HMRC might raise an eyebrow about.

Incidentally, TWS money back guarantee works on the same basis…if you have a faulty wine it’s the original cost not the current one which is refunded. Tends not to matter for recent vintages of most wines but can sometimes be quite a difference.


Hi MarkC,

  • all great points.

I had actually started to consider the time value of money, but decided to actually ignore it on purpose. As a very starting point, what is your cost of capital opportunity cost - CPI, RPI, PPI? Should I instead use my opportunity cost and the 10-20% return my equities portfolio has delivered the last 5 years - it gets really complicated.

If you wanted to build in a fixed 2.5%pa inflation adjuster (or any other reasonable number) into the above that would make sense and would be really easy to add into any max sales price.

My view here is that it’s not perfect, but you’re trying to build a system that doesn’t encourage trading and speculation - hence the suggestion of a price and bottle cap per year (particularly for buying).

I’m absolutely suggesting that the buyer gets “a free lunch”. But you need to remember that you very well may be the buyer in some situations - and so you will win some/lose some.

As I say, I’m proposing a system that provides flexibility for existing members rather than a revenue generator. The realty being that if there is a HUGE profit on a wine, it will most likely simply be withdrawn and sold through traditional channels with a third party auction house making a profit and in many cases the buyer, who may not be a TWS member potentially getting a bargain/free-lunch depending on sales price.

With regards VAT, I agree that would need to be given some more thought, but I suppose it’s not different to a wine selling at an auction at a price below cost. (I am not in the weeds on this one I must admit).

Having thought about the above system on and off for the last few years the conclusions I come to are:

  1. I have a proportion of reserves I wouldn’t mind selling for a number of reasons.
  2. Most of these bottles are “average” (to me) rather than rockstar bottles worth a fortune. (e.g. perhaps some of the VCP additions).
  3. The rockstars I want to keep or at the very worst gift to friends and family.
  4. I am willing to leave some money on the table for either another member to benefit from or TWS (through giving them first option). As long as I broadly get my money back, on wine that I no longer want, then I’d be pretty happy. Especially if it was an easy system with limited hassle (vs the thoughts of withdrawing reserves, picking an auction house and all the dialogue, going through an auction process and paying commission)*.

*I have actually never sold wine via an auction so don’t actually know how difficult it is in practice. Sounds a right pain tbh.

So what is a system that provides some flexibility?

The question that would add the most context to the above system proposal and any broader discussion is, “what is the average amount of time wine spends in members reserves?” @Kelly @laura is this something you can help with?

Obviously if I was trying to liquidate the 2,000+ bottles in reserves with an average age of 20 years then the above system would not be the ideal route to maximising profit for me. Perhaps I’m reading the room wrong however, but I don’t believe most on here are looking for that option.

A separate discussion, may well be - I have 12 bottles of 2005 Lynch-Bages, I’d like to try other wines from that vintage - does anyone want to swap 6 bottles of L-B for 6 bottles of say Figeac at nil-cost. That swap-shop options DEFINITELY appeals to me but I feel is a different discussion.


It doesn’t need to if a decision is made just to use RPI or CPI (which will be the same after 2030 anyway). In simple terms that takes that leg of the discussion away. Don’t use historic equity returns! Yes, wine price inflation may be more or less than RPI, but keep it simple.

Which defeats the purpose of this…but perhaps you are suggesting penalties for that route?

I think that most aren’t but may like the real value of their capital maintained. The route you suggest isn’t about maximising profit but it wasn’t intended to be. My suggestion was a middle ground…just index the cost for RPI, add duty and VAT and there it is. It’s possible that some wines may have a market price less than that, in which case that would be the default value.

I’m a wine drinker not a wine speculator, nonetheless I think I’d struggle to knowingly sell a case of wine for £200 if it was worth £400.


Lots of good points:

  1. Agree and no push back. Something in the 1-4% based on one of the metrics you discuss. It’s not going to scratch the surface on aged high end wines.

  2. On the high end where there is a big gap; yes this doesn’t solve that route, but currently that’s the only option a member has to sell ANY of their reserves.

  3. Agree on some inflation metric. Duty and VAT becomes mechanical. Either the wine is sold IB or mechanically duty and VAT are added to IB sales if the buyer wants it delivered and they pay on that.

At the moment; what are your options?

Like literally, what would you do today in this above?

At best, you transfer to another vendor and use their broking system; all at a cost to you. Maybe put on auction for an unknown value outcome and pay somewhere in the region of 10-20% of value.

No one would be forcing you to use a TWS system, but it has the potential to be a relatively hassle free system that supports the ethos and shared values of the community.

Take the example you provide above under the system I propose:

a) you bought a wine for 200. You get your costs back and so are no worse off than if you’d never bought the wine.
b) In the unlikely event that there was a huge arb open, TWS would likely take up their right of first refusal. Profit goes back into TWS. Given it’s non-profit ethos this would result in subsidies/discounts elsewhere.
c) If the wine goes into the community trading system (rather than TWS taking up their option) then you again have all your costs covered and another member of the community benefits slightly. It may be you.

No one would be forcing you to use the above system and an equilibrium would be found on what value members would be willing to leave on the table.

The average value of wines in reserves is obviously going to be higher, and it will be difficult to develop a system that meets the needs of all members, if financially viable and crucially fits the ethos and standards that TWS strives towards. It is however worth noting that the average value sold is GBP12/bottle. Let’s say the average in reserves is 3x this = so GBP 36/bottle. then under the proposed system the cost to you is the arb between any inflation adjustment (RPI/CPI) and wine specific inflation.

Again, not trying to suggest a perfect system but I don’t think anyone possibly wants to see a BBX system in place, or broader auction.


The import duty itself seems very low (e.g. approx 41€ for 60 bottles) and in my case I paid no VAT.

If shipping wine into Holland you will have an additional cost applied by the shipping company. DHL, for example, charge 10% of the value of the goods as an additional fee (not included in the shipping costs) for completing the duty declaration and paying duty on your behalf at point of entry.

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I went the third party route. The first time I decided to have a rebalance was in c 2013 and I sent perhaps 5 cases to auction, so as you say some unknowns. 4 of the cases sold with good results, but I had to take delivery of the 5th. The auction house took a whopping cut, but it still worked out for me.

The second time was this year, and I had 4 cases delivered to a broker account which I had set up in the meantime. Here I can set my price which is good, and can even if I want have a couple bottles delivered to me to see what they are like and try and sell the rest. The only fly in the ointment is that these are duty paid as I’ve had them a long time, and my ‘return’ less the vat and the brokerage fee is disappointingly low vs the all in selling price.

In both instances the process was pretty lengthy, and whilst I’m getting more than cost back it is not life changing amounts (these are normal wines not trophy wines), and my advice is still to try and not overbuy one particular type of wine in the first place, which is where I went wrong all those years ago! I’m not actually making any money at all, as all that happens is I use my newfound balance at the broker to buy something else more in keeping with my tastes now versus 15 years ago, so if the society could offer a swapping system (which is effectively what I am doing with these 4 cases) is definitely be interested in that.


I’m glad to hear that this worked out for you.

Would you perhaps be willing to share high level economics of the transaction in order to understand what gap a TWS system would need to bridge to be competitive?


a) Initial purchase price of the 4 cases (perhaps on a /bottle basis given you dipped in).
b) storage costs.
c) Sales price of the 4 cases.
d) Commission paid to auction house and any other costs.

Feel free to make it as generalised as possible - as I say just trying to understand real life economics.

Thanks in advance!

As an aside, could descrive how your tastes have changed over the years? I generally but fairly similar styles of wine at the moment, but not sure if that’s what I’ll still be after in ten or so years.

For me it isn’t so much changing tastes as realising that my taste was never there in the first place; when I started buying wine above £20 pb I started off buying what I thought I should be owning/drinking rather than what I knew I would like (especially French EP). Once you start drinking the stuff a few years down the line you realise your mistake…


2 real examples

  1. bought ep 20 per bottle in 2005. All in cost, including duty, tax and storage = 35. I pocketed 73, versus a market value of 87 in bond (this is livex, no idea of this is quoted in bond or not, like I say I am not a wine investor). I sold at slightly below market in duty paid terms as I wanted the funds to buy burgundy!

  2. bought ep 26 in 2007. All in 40. Return 53, sold dp. Less good given time elapsed, but at least I didn’t lose money. Although time value of money maybe I did but whatever. Livex is 55.

Both Bordeaux GC that I had no interest in drinking as have too much. Not sure this advances the argument either way, but there it is.