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De-listing Wither Hills


Hi everyone,

Our New Zealand buyer Freddy wanted to share some news with you and explain what’s happening and why. I’m posting on his behalf here:

Regrettably we will be de-listing all wines from Wither Hills, a winery which over the years has become very popular with members and with which we have enjoyed a strong relationship with until recently.

We’ve been working hard this year to improve the sturdiness of our packaging, looking into which wines are our worst offenders with regards to breakage rates and considering the knock-on effect this has on member satisfaction and the cost involved internally. Unfortunately, Wither Hills’ packaging had one of the highest breakage rates by far, with an uncomfortably large percentage of all cases going out to members being damaged in transit.

We’ve been working hard to find a solution to this with Wither Hills’ parent company, Lion Co. Unfortunately, while all the other suppliers caught up in this packaging improvement project managed to find a workable solution, we sadly couldn’t find one with Wither Hills. We even considered re-packing Wither Hills wines into our own sturdy Wine Society boxes here, at our own cost, but not only would this put pressure on our warehouse team, it would also mean members would be penalised by having to pay for it by way of a higher selling price.

Member satisfaction is paramount for us and while many members have enjoyed Wither Hills wines to date, the number of breakages combined with some ongoing issues with supply mean that this satisfaction is only going to decrease over time, and so the decision has been made with a pro-active approach to make a change before too many members become inconvenienced.

Suggested alternatives

I’m sure some of you will be looking for alternative wines, so we’ve put together some suggestions from our range to substitute each of the Wither Hills wines we currently sell:

Sauvignon Blanc

This is 55p more expensive per bottle, however is the new project of Ben Glover who used to be the Wither Hills winemaker back in the winery’s heyday.


The Wither Hills Chardonnay was at a keen price for a New Zealand Chardonnay, at £8.95. It is now out of stock to buy individually but is still in a Christmas Gifts mixed case.

You could try:

The closest other NZ chardonnay in price, albeit not from Marlborough.
There’s also going to be a new chardonnay from Zephyr, made by ex-Wither Hills winemaker Ben Glover, available in late December.

Pinot Noir

Likewise, this pinot noir was at a difficult price to match, at £10.95. You could try:

Not from the Marlborough region and a slightly lighter and more delicate style, however this is still a good New Zealand pinot noir similar in price to the Wither Hills.

This is the closest Marlborough pinot noir that we currently offer, price-wise.

Again, there’s also going to be a Zephyr pinot available from late December, which is really delicious.

You might well have some alternatives of your own to suggest, and we’d love to hear them!


I’m left wondering if the unspecified ‘ongoing issues with supply’ are the bigger issue here? It would seem to me that if the wine is a best seller then failing to adjust packaging of cases is a pretty short sighted thing to do?

It would be interesting to know how much of an ‘outlier’ the breakage rate is too.

I haven’t bought them recently, and then not from WS for full disclosure…


Agh! Just this week bought my first bottle of Wither Hills PN to see if I liked it. Maybe I won’t be too keen!
Odd that just 1 supplier is unable to find a suitable solution, but thanks for letting us know. I’m sure I can dislike it if I try hard enough.


It definitely played a part (for instance, we were sent a different vintage to the one we’d ordered etc) and while that was workable, this combined with the unsuitable packaging was a big issue for us - as illustrated by:

It was by a long way the worst offender when it came to breakages - up to 7% of the sauvignon was damaged in transit, which really isn’t great for our members.

Oh no! :grimacing: I’m sure you will like it - I’ve enjoyed many a Wither Hills over the years - so I hope you can at least enjoy that one bottle, and maybe compare it to the others Freddy suggested above? :slight_smile:


Clearly a bigger issue with This supplier than just the packaging and thus I can see why the team felt it necessary to break the current relationship with them. However, I am currently travelling in New Zealand and with our buying power suspect we can do better than almost £11 per bottle for the wines that will be offered in the future. One thing that did strike me was a comment by one Hawkes Bay famous Winery that if a Sauvignon Blanc did not have Marlborough on the label they could not export it - perhaps a starting point for a new range is to look for a SB from another region - we had some great examples from Hawkes Bay.


I’m sure Ive seen it on sale at my local Co-op - both the P.N. and S.B. - at similar price to TWS. Maybe the bottles are extra thin or something?

Struck me as good / very good for the price. Nothing for the grasping burgundians to lose sleep over.


Shame, the PN was remarkable value but sounds like a sensible decision in the end.


On breakages, I never had any with a Society Van yet several with couriers.


Hi, Just wanted to let you know I’m working on it. I believe that there are other good wines out there at keen prices but they are harder to find than expected, especially once you add on the cost of shipping, duty and VAT. Plenty of cheap wine to choose from even from within Marlborough, however more often than not, the quality just isn’t there.
The wines which I suggested as alternatives (especially those from Zephyr) are a step-up in terms of winemaking execution, hence the slightly higher price.
I’m working on sourcing something else which will be a suitable WH replacement but keen not to rush anything and risk sacrificing quality.


Hi Freddy

Yes, I am not surprised on the price front. I know that tax is quite high on alcohol here but even if you remove that prices appear quite high if compared with my normal market in Argentina. I have also noticed that the cost of living here appears quite high. What is the cost of shipping, VAT and tax per bottle?


Tax (duty) is just under £3 per bottle (below 15%). You add VAT of 20% to that plus the cost of wine you’re importing. No idea about shopping, suppose it depends on how much and how far…


I’m sure someone from the Society will give you a definitive answer but the duty on a bottle of still wine is £2.23 the cost of shipping maybe 20p and of packaging about the same or a little more then all of that subject to a 20% rate of VAT. There are slight differences depending on the country of origin and of course this doesn’t include the cost of the wine in the bottle nor any intermediary margins in the supply chain, nor the final retailer margin (all of which also subject to 20% VAT).


(all of which also subject to 20% VAT).

Including the duty to which VAT must be added - a tax on a tax :frowning:


Ah, thanks, I didn’t realise I was looking at the rate per litre. That makes my EP tax calculator mildly more advantageous


Someone is going to be disappointed.