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French members


I have been trying to have the Society consider accumulating French Members orders and for us to share carriage costs (Wine Soc truck?) depositing the wine with Julien and colleagues in Montreuil sur Mer: they have space in their cellar. I checked. French members would pick it up from this deposit point within, say, three weeks or be charged for storage.

My suggestion was rejected out of hand by some employee of ours (yes, ours!). I asked for a survey. Rejected.

So we Members in France appear to be disenfranchised and ignored. Any interest? Send me a private message.

Bon week end sans Chilean Merlot!
John Hickman


The Society’s failure to maintain a French operation is distressing to me. I live in Kent and visit France most months. There is no need to have an expensive top-of-the-range shop miles from Calais, just a local storage facility topped up by a weekly delivery is all that is required. You pay for your order when you place it, and then collect it in France … there is then no risk of non-collection, and no overhead for the Society except for delivery and storage pending collection.
Other organisations can do it - Wineshare uses the Franglais Wines warehouse at Frethun - so I fail to see why the Wine Society cannot.
Nowadays I use Auchan, or one of the two Majestic outlets in Calais, and very good they are too, though their range is far less extensive.


Thanks. I agree. Many companies operate drop off points. Using Montreuil sur Mer would involve Julian, who worked for the Society. It would bring more business to him and colleagues. But we need a few tens of Members to support this idea of a depot for accumulated orders. I’m prepared to wait for my New World wines… M&S in Paris is no substitute.

There’s also a point of principle here; we have been undemocratically disenfranchised. So much for the spirit of a “Society”!

Hope I will be joined by others
John Hickman


The closure of the French operation was something of a touchy subject and was handled in a very non-transparent? disingenuous? underhand? way. It still rankles with me, and apparently also with others. I’m not very optimistic that an alternative solution will be found though.


I’m not sure the staff on the forum will want to post for fear of perceived defensiveness so I will.

Though you may be technically correct to describe a member of WS staff as ‘some employee of ours’ it is also high-handed and quite rude, particularly in a first post in this community.

Clearly there is some ongoing concern over this issue and I note the more measured comments to that effect of an established member of the community. I can see the benefits of a French base and am myself 90 minutes from Dover and thus potentially a beneficiary; but I would be keen to understand the basis for the decision made by our democratically elected committtee, acting on behalf of the whole membership.

This is a harmonious community that values TWS and it is notable that when people have ideas or feedback they articulate this positively and calmly. I would respectfully ask - and I hope others agree with me - that you do the same.


Thanks for all your comments here. There’s some information I’ve been sent that might answer a couple of the queries here and I’ll put a reply together for you tomorrow - I’m currently out and about so can’t access the info I need but I’ll post something tomorrow morning. :smiley:


Just wanted to give a quick bit of background on how the decision was reached, as this is something that a couple of people have mentioned on this topic.

Montreuil was closed after an 18-month review and consultation where a wide range of options were considered. Part of this included a survey of 400 members who had used Montreuil to get a representative sampling. I appreciate that members that weren’t included in this survey might feel they didn’t get a chance for their voice to be heard, but here’s an explanation from Society Chairman Sarah Evans on why we couldn’t consult the entire membership (and why that wouldn’t have been useful to the decision-making anyway):

As a mutual we often feel more like a ‘club’ where consultation and cabinet decisions are perhaps the norm. However, in a business the size of The Society, with a turnover of getting on for £100m, approximately 138,000 active members and another 100,000 or so members who do not currently order but remain as members and have a vote, such consultation is simply impractical. We could ask all the members who use the Montreuil showroom for their views but would get a distorted answer in favour of keeping it open. If we asked the membership as a whole it is likely that the majority of members would be unprepared for the price that they pay for a bottle of wine to cross subsidise the tiny proportion of members who do buy from Montreuil; the vast majority of whom in any event buy in France to avoid the UK duty. You will appreciate that neither provides a helpful or balanced basis on which to frame a business decision.

Only 2.6% of active members used Montreuil in the final year leading up to the decision to close it, and the significant increase in costs thanks to the new rental agreement we would have had to sign (and the risk of a worse exchange rate meaning even less members felt it worthwhile to visit Montreuil) the showroom would have made a very small return and it may have led to us needing to put the prices of wines up to pay for it. The whole membership subsidising activities appreciated by a minority isn’t in line with our principles regarding the services we offer.

As a fellow member and someone who has more than once travelled to Montreuil to collect wine, I completely understand the disappointment here. But it wasn’t a decision that was taken lightly, and members’ viewpoints were taken into account as much as possible, and this was the best outcome for the membership as a whole.

That’s all for now - hope this helps. I’ve got to go and celebrate my mum’s birthday now but I’ll check back later to see if I can help with anything else. :slight_smile:


When M-s-M was open I bought the majority of my TWS wines there. However, I can see that it was a fairly expensive operation which suited a minority of whom I was part. As it happened, I had to go out of my way to get to M-s-M as I usually travel via Belgium to Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy etc.
A lower-cost TWS collection point in Calais would suit me better and maybe would suit more members than before thus not only reducing the costs but also giving the price benefits to more members.
I continue to buy the majority of my wines on the continent, directly from growers (including some listed by TWS) and also from hypermarkets in France and Luxembourg.
I would like TWS to add a Calais pick-up option to my choices. Perhaps it could be housed in the Eurotunnel Calais terminal?


“the vast majority buy in France to avoid the UK duty”. Well, yes indeed, wasn’t that the main purpose of the French shop? Not much point driving miles to buy something for the same price it is at home.

But it’s gone now and during the build up to Brexit doesn’t seem a good time to review the decision. However I share the hope that the potential for a simpler, lower cost option perhaps in or near Calais will be explored once the details of Brexit are settled - assuming they will be sooner or later!


I was not arguing against closing the Montreuil shop. I was arguing in favour of a more economical, more carefully sited, more commercial, more practical presence in France. It is rather disingenuous to conclude that this cannot be done successfully, based only on the Society’s rather high-flown operations in Hesdin and in what was possibly the most expensive building in Montreuil.


The Society leapt on Brexit as a reason in support of their decision to cease French operations. But I have been a member of the Society since 1981 and I’ve been buying wine in France since well before that. It is possible that Brexit might affect the quantity of wine that can be brought back - though personally I doubt it - but it is very unclear to me why it would have any affect on price differentials.


Thanks for your contribution. As you will have read I am addressing members living permanently or with a second residence n France. Apparently there are about 1000 members living in France and we have no access to the Society’s wine list without paying uneconomic carriage charges. I was not suggesting revisiting a permanent WS presence in France but a system of occasionally delivering a critical mass of orders to a depot. Montreuil sur Mer is one idea where former WS staff are in a wine shop with a large cellar that could accommodate French members orders. As for Brexit… no comment!


As a member, I used the Montreuil service on the occasions we crossed the channel with a car en route to somewhere else. I’ve never made a special trip there, and I do not have a second home or live in France.

I do miss it. But if memory serves, there was also the fact that the facility had seen declining use over the years, as well as facing an imminent hike in the fixed costs of staying there. I don’t have the text in front of me, so please correct me if I am wrong.

The cost isue could be addressed by moving to somewhere else, but I doubt if it would make a lot of difference to the level of custom. The era of the booze-cruise is over, and unlike the remaining warehouses around the channel ports, TWS only sells to members. You might be able to sign up a few new members, but Joe Public is more likely to leave in high dudgeon on being told he will have to part with £20 first.

So finding somewhere cheaper would only answer half the problem.


I am still waiting for the 1000 or so French residents to respond. Ils sont où? We are deprived of New World wines! Also from Portugal and Spain. You all know the French: the other wines don’t deserve mention. We love French wines - but in Montreuil we bought mainly wines hors France. We very much miss the variety. Living in Paris we can buy at M&S but those in Picardy and Normandy?

Once again, this is the idea of a depot. Not to re-create a shop.