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En primeur offers of Wine Soc staples are deeply unfair

Hello there,

I just sent this message using the website feedback form. I had to edit my message quite heavily because of the limited message length allowed by the form, but I think I am clear enough.

Here it is:

Dear sir/madam,

You have been selling more wines in en primeur offers. I know a wine merchant who provided one of the wines for an offer. He tells me it was very profitable for him and you. I think these offers discriminate against those members who have limited funds. They are unfair and not appropriate for a cooperative.

I wanted to buy some Gratien 2012, but you only offered it en primeur in unit sizes that I couldn’t afford. Should I be denied a Wine Society staple because I can only afford to get a couple of bottles at a time?

Now you are doing it again with Boizel Grand Vintage, a wine I would also like to own a couple of bottles. You are prevent the less well off from getting wines because you only sell them in en primeur offers in expensive unit sizes.

I am disabled with an extremely limited income. But I am a regular customer even though my orders may be small. I shouldn’t be denied wines. I shall be taking this isuue up with the committee.

Yours,
Dr D Strange.

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Hi @doctorstrange, this is a member to member forum so often that will mean your comments wont be seen by TWS staff. You can email customer support on : memberservices@thewinesociety.com or call them on 01438 741177.
Hope that helps

Thanks, @Leah, I already sent it to TWS via their form on the website. I posted the message I sent here in the hope of generating a little support for we less well off members…

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Whilst I think the EP offers are fine in principle, I and many others here have wanted TWS to offer a wider single-bottle platform here for some time - for the reason you set out and many others. Very few fine wine merchants have a substantial single bottle offer for wines going into reserves but many members of this forum have said that they have moved some of their EP spending away from TWS and over to those that do.

Irrespective of whether you gain any traction on this issue I can see this is your first post so I hope you will become a regular contributor here.

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I can but try, @Jcbl!

I used one wine merchant last year who had an en primeur offer on Kumeu River 2018 single vineyards. One could buy cases in bond or individual bottles duty paid. I bought one or two bottles every couple of weeks until I had a case of the wines I wanted and they were all shipped off to me in one go once they were in stock. The prices were really keen too, so I considered that great service. They are doing the same with 2019s this year but I have other wines to buy.

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I wholeheartedly agree with what @Jcbl has said and also wanted to add a point from my personal opinion .
I could be incorrect but the volume of wines available in say the Boizel for example may not be substantial. So by releasing it in a year or two down the line to the masses of membership may result in A) a backlash from members because they’ve missed out due to it selling out so fast and probably more to the point B) other unscrupulous merchants buying up as much of it as soon as its released and selling it on the secondary market . (We all know it happens)!
So by releasing it as an EP offer allows a reasonable fairness to allow everyone wants it to “request” it over a period of a couple of weeks.
The downside as you say, is that we are then restricted to 6 bottle cases or in some incidents 12 bottle cases .
I guess for TWS they try and balance the best ways to release what will ultimately be sought after Wines in a way that makes it most fair .

I’m in favour of anything the WS can do to make good wine accessible to as many people as possible. I have got used to accepting that I’m not going to buy a lot of wine EP. Something I would do if I was significantly wealthier.

I also see many wines go in and out of stock whilst I am waiting for payday when I can spend my monthly wine budget. If I was richer I’d feel free to hit the buy button more liberally.

If I am going to dip into EP I’m sure it will be a mixed selection. Glad I bought some 2000, 2001 and 2005 Bordeaux at the time (had more money then!)

Still buy a majority of my wine from WS because I can mix my own cases easily and include a special £50 wine in a box of £8 wines. Like to see the selection of half bottles improved at the moment as it’s a little sparse particularly for whites, but I’m sure in time this will happen.

I have seen a number of Vintage Gratien Champagnes on offer as single bottles on the website over the years, but champagne is one product I do try to buy in cases. Still have 3 left from a 6 for 4 deal mixed case from WS from late last year - great value! Hopefully some of the Gratien may appear on the normal list in the future as its the main society supplier.

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@Leah There is not any particular reason why l launching a wine en primier should be more fair than releasing it to the membership mailing list.

I remember when the Gratien 96 was released. People were only allowed to buy a maximum of six bottles. I got two bottles and a magnum, a few weeks later i rang and ordered another magnum and was told, “That’s your lot!” Seemed fair enough and it allowed me to buy the wines I wanted using my limited weekly benefits.

If you are going to ‘request’ a six pack of Gratien 12, what other criteria can fairly used to determine who gets their 6/12 bottles than first come, first served? This is just the same as what happened with the 96, only one could effectively buy in smaller unit sizes. I have no doubt that the society’s computer system has no problem in counting to six, so what is more fair than allowing poorer members to buy two bottles when the wine is released and the more well off being limited to six, or we unwaged being told “Tough titty, matey” whilst the richer members still get their six bottles?

I’m not deliberately trying to kick up a storm about nothing, I simply think it is unreasonable for a supposed cooperative to only sell to a subset of its members who happen to have money whilst excluding members, supposedly equal, shareholding members, from buying their two bottles of a wine society staple.

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Correct me if I’m wrong… but isn’t it because E.P. wines are bought & sold by the case. So the minimum purchase quantity, is the minimum case size?

As a side issue, I’m fairly certain that there is something in the membership rules forbidding members purchasing wines with the explicit intension of selling on? so a wine merchant who ‘flips’ bottles can be struck off? be nice to see some examples being made.

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Lay and Wheeler sell singles or reduced-size cases EP. I don’t think it’s beyond the wit of TWS to do the same.

Indeed, I think the OP has a point, if bottles previously sold openly to all as singles are suddenly only available EP then you’ve reduced the potential ‘spread’ of a wine amongst members. Whilst I mostly buy EP by the case, some wines that are either very expensive, or indeed just not the basket I want to put all my eggs in, I buy EP from L&W (which is great in stellar vintages with consistent quality, as you can secure a broad range to drink later).

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I completely agree with being able to buy EP in single bottles. I’d have no problem with them having to be in self mixed cases of 6 though. If this were possible it would allow me to buy the same number of cases that I do currently but with a much wider range of wines in them.

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I think the OP makes a good, valid point. It would be good to hear something about TWS’s perspective, in order to understand what the challenges would be. Even if the supplier sells in ‘units’ of 6 bottles, what’s to stop TWS consolidating member orders into 6s and then splitting the cases as needed (other than the time/work involved)?

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Surely no more work really than what is already done with normal ordering?

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@Tannatastic it was Lay and Wheeler I was talking about in my post about buying Kumeu. I don’t see why the minimum order size for an EP offering has to be a case - as you say it limits the number of members who can purchase these wines. This is all the more unreasonable when it seems that it is the best vintages that TWS seem to be doing this with. I cannot buy Gratien 12 unless I buy a case, but I can get Gratien 07 - thanks for offering to only sell me second rate wines, chaps! That’s pretty unfair if you ask me!

Now I think about it, I seem to recall the offer for 96 Gratien was more like an en primeur offering but with unit sizes of a bottle. Hence me being able to get an order in for two bottles and a mag (the last bottle of which was fabulous about a year ago). I got my order in in time to secure what was a paltry amount, so I got them. There was no ‘requesting’ to buy anything an age before the wine was released and that request being granted by whatever process the wine soc uses - I just ordered a small amount early and made the cut. I feel very lucky to have got a second magnum further down the line as it was a wonderful wine and fizz is better from magnums :wink:

I would like to see staples of the wine society that are now being sold en primeur with a one bottle minimum amount, whatever the wine soc chooses as a maximum a buyer can have as this would be fairer to all members who have no reason to be denied wines from special years just because they don’t want/cannot afford a whole case. This would seem more in fitting with the wine soc’s supposed status as a cooperative - rather than a club where only large buyers can pick up up good vintages of wines that are denied to most buyers.

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Lots of people take issue with this . It’s like concert tickets, who gets the tickets in the front row ? Invariably office worker who are sat at their desks waiting for the tickets to go live and purchase the minute they do . There are plenty other merchants who offer a first come / first served approach and who offer single bottles .

Yes, this is 100% the case, however I’m sure people still do it and haven’t been caught .
There is also less chance of this if buying EP.
Sometimes I think it doesn’t matter what TWS do or how they choose to sell different wines , they will not satisfy all members all of the time .

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Surely when one fully purchases a wine and takes delivery of it, one is free to do whatever one likes with it, whomsoever has sold it.

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You are.

TWS trying to discourage the practice of merchants or traders hoovering up large stocks of wine at ‘lower than market value’ (because of the institutional nature of the Society) and flipping them back onto the market for considerable profit by limiting allocations. I’m not sure they (or, as importantly, we) would be that bothered about you selling a couple of cases of vin plonk for the price of a couple of pints at the local. The two are entirely compatible.

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Are any ‘merchants’ or ‘traders’ members of the Society then? If not, how could this be a problem? Ergo why the need for yet another rule for it?

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The use of the word ergo suggests the two are linked. Your example is a non-sequitur.

You can simultaneously be a trader and a member of the Society, but Society approaches to EP preclude you from practicing your trading with product bought from a not-for-profit mutual. The same with a merchant.

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I was told this by a member of WS many years ago - apparently a much sought after wine, limited to one bottle per member, was bought by a whole posse of colleagues at a well known London based broker - clue was in the delivery address - all bottles were sent to the business address! Not sure what , if any, measures were (subsequently) taken by WS.

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