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The Society Guarantee - Discuss!

I take the view that the guarantee is there for faulty wines. I’ve used it twice in over ten years for that. Only other refunds have been missing or broken wines (not going there again!).

Don’t like it? Not ‘good value’? Don’t buy it again…but I think it would be a bit open to abuse by some if a refund was given on a regular basis. Price just goes up for all when that happens.

Regarding the reviews of this wine, very nice and 3 stars don’t imply a bad wine. Whether it’s good or bad value for money is a different question. Some people explicitly include value for money in their stars. Some do it implicitly I think, or maybe don’t realise.

I probably do it too - but I very rarely give a 5 star and I have to say that a sub £20 wine would be unlikely to get it, just because I can’t recall encountering one that merited it. Rapsani Terra Petra probably did, but it’s now over £20. 5 stars should be very sparing IMO or they become devalued. In the same way that Suckling and Halliday devalue 95 point wines.

I sometimes give 4 stars and make it clear it’s really 4 and a half, or why it wasn’t five.


I am curious as to how people use the Society Guarantee. So far I have used it for 2 obviously corked bottles and to return 2 unopened bottles of a wine I didn’t like (another WS delivery was coming anyway, so easy to hand back). I believe I was also refunded for the one bottle I tried before returning the 2, which I wasn’t expecting.

I have certainly had ‘disappointing’ wines that do not match the glowing reviews but I’ve put that down to a difference in taste or decanting time or serving temperature, etc. I have even had wines that were possibly not right, pouring the rest after a couple of glasses, but I’ve never been confident to say faulty vs not to my taste. I know the guarantee covers both of these but I tend to put it down to experience and just don’t reorder it.

So should I complain more and get my money back on anything I dont think is appropriate vfm? Or maybe set a rule where if the bottle isn’t finished I request a refund?

I tend to factor price in too, below a certain price point I wouldn’t bother, but as the price increases so does the disappointment.

I suspect this audience are more along the lines of chalking it up to experience, but maybe I’m missing a trick?


I have never used it - but then again I (a) tend to keep things a fairly long time and thus feel it’s my fault (even if corked) and (b) when I do not enjoy it I indeed just chalk it up to experience. I feel that not liking is too subjective and I’m wine knowledgeable enough to know what I’m letting myself in for. This is not to in any way criticise anyone who uses the Guarantee.


I’d generally agree - However, this is what the society themselves say…

Whether you believe a wine to be faulty, not as you had expected, or simply not to your taste, please contact us to put things right.

This promise applies both to wines that you have purchased recently as well as wines bought some time ago from The Society but are still within the recommended drink date and have been stored in suitable conditions.

Which as you say does open things to interpretation. My understanding is that member services judge your history of this and if it’s clearly an abuse I imagine they’d refuse it, but once or twice in 10 years is at the very least, a reasonable case.

So that goes back to the tasting note kind of hinging on an expectation - Unless you’re buying a wine you have bought before how can you ever know? Part of joining the society is to experience new things and I’d bet it’s actually pretty rare for people to complain as I imagine, like in this case the customer thinks ‘well, it’s just not for me’ and in future, I’d probably be warier of buying anything higher value, which is probably why the promise was put in: to encourage a bit of risk taking with some common sense about buying…but if it’s wildly different then I think there is a case where you could argue it’s worthy of a look at a refund.

I’d say the idea of a faulty bottle is just something that should be replaced because it’s a defective product, no?


I think that what you’ve done is spot on. I forgot to add in my post above that returning unopened bottles of wine that wasn’t liked is fine in my book too.

The line between disappointing, and flawed can be difficult at times, and only by knowing what it ‘should’ taste like can you be sure. I think it’s ok to do that if it’s borderline. If it’s just not your style, read the notes more carefully or the reviews maybe…

Appropriate VFM is not a reason at all in my view. I could go and order top end burgundy and rhone and then claim…meh, it’s ok but not worth £200 a bottle, can I have my money back. I’m sorry, that’s taking the amber liquid in my view.

I would imagine that TWS would have a look at frequent refund requests in more detail? Might be worth getting a steer on this @laura?


Perhaps the Society Guarantee chat is worth spinning out to another thread.

I’m interested to hear how other people use it. I don’t tend to ask for a refund for wines I’ve purchased but simply not enjoyed.

But for wines where I have a case in reserves, and I do a part withdrawal and really don’t like the wine I have on a couple of occasions kept the wines I’ve received but asked for a refund for the wines left in reserves and for them to then be sold to other Members. I assume this happens or they end up in the mystery mixed cases perhaps.

I guess part of the problem is during Covid the lack of opportunity to get out and taste wines before buying. Hence you take a bit more of a risk when you put a case in reserves.

Personally, as long as the Society has the option to resell the wine (and in my case it is literally just moving it from reserves, not even having to collect the wine) I’m happy to use the guarantee on the few occasions when I really don’t get on with the wine ordered.


So subjective, isn’t it. At what point do you move from “chalk it up to experience” to “This is totally not as described”? Does the price of the bottle impact on the decision?

I’ve never returned a bottle for credit (to TWS), but I’ve not had a faulty bottle or one I thought was mis-sold yet


I’ve only once returned a wine, and that only because I happened to be going to a tasting the next day. It was an inexpensive wine so normally wouldn’t have bothered.
I am, though, missing the walk-around tastings. The vast majority of wines I used to buy were either new discoveries at tastings or repeat purchases (or new vintages) of wines I’d previously enjoyed. Sadly I do have to report more disappointments in the last few months than before, but it’s been purely a matter of taste.


Your wish is my command… :slight_smile: But seriously, I think it definitely merits its own thread.


A few years ago I got a case of 12 of a wine I’d found excellent in earlier vintages. I tried 3 bottles over several months but just didn’t like it at all. I took the remaining 9 back to the shop to return them as I couldn’t face drinking them.
I picked up £3-400 of wine from the shop and at checkout the very nice chap, whose name I can’t remember, refunded me for the whole box of 12. I did protest, not too much of course!, that I only expected the 9 to be refunded, but he insisted on refunding them all.
Otherwise never used the “guarantee” and generally if I find a wine I don’t particularly like I just avoid it in future. I don’t request or expect a refund just because I don’t like it.


My approach seems similar to others here. I’ve only once called on the guarantee so far and that was a clearly faulty wine. I’ve had disappointing wines and just chalk this up to experience. However if I had bought a case of wines that I found I just didn’t like (I’d need to open at least two to be convinced of this) I’d still chalk the opened wines up to experience but might return the remainder. However I almost never buy a case of wine I’ve not previously tried by ordering just one or two bottles, so it’s really very unlikely to happen.

I think it’s great that TWS offer a refund even if it was just a disappointing wine but, personally, I’d feel a bit of a fraud for just that. Over the years I have bought many food and drink items that have disappointed and I just see that as part of the continuous learning experience that is life!


Yes, I’ve definitely found that problem. With the lack of tasting opportunities, be it ones organised by the Society or popping over to a fellow Society Member’s house for dinner and trying some wine, it has become a bit more hit and miss buying wine at the moment.

You really have to rely on tasting notes, reviews and the Community but as we all have different tastes you occasional end up with something that simply does do it for you on a personal level.

I don’t really think I’d use the Guarantee for these types of wrong purchases unless, as mentioned above, on occasions where the bottles can be returned to the Society so they can be sold on to other Members.

I take the view if the wines can be resold, I don’t mind asking for a refund if I really don’t like them. Average wines are fine, there are always occasions when they are useful but for wines where I’d simply never want to drink them it is great to be able to return the unused ones for a refund (and the fact that most such wines are already stored in reserves certainly makes the logistics easier).

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Unfortunately, some believe that there needs to be someone else to deflect their own decisions and judgements onto all the time and get ‘compensation’. For their own stupidity often…


To be honest I don’t think I’m that good at identifying a faulty wine. The one time I asked for a refund was after one of the community online tastings and I found the wine positively distasteful. Which still might have just been me but what I was drinking seemed to bear absolutely no resemblance to what everyone else was describing. I’ve had a couple of Musars that were just terrible, but both were quite old and were just past it (and not from TWS anyway!).

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Same as many of the replies above. If I just don’t enjoy it then that’s on me. If its clearly off I fill the form in online with a small note and am quite surprised the credit comes back straight away before the note is reviewed. I’ve done it 3 times since I’ve been a member I think.

When I worked for a small indie we would always take a faulty wine back (as long as it was a recent purchase) and then pass it back to the importer who would credit us so the shop didn’t lose out. Not sure if they then passed it back to the winemaker for credit!


This. I had tried the two wines that were refunded before and knew that they were not right. Otherwise I could believe I would doubt myself, putting it down to it needing more cellar time, or a longer decant.

Perhaps that highlights my lack of confidence detecting faulty wines, and I may not be alone, as some of the negative member reviews seem to be for faulty wines.

Indeed I am a little surprised that people are only reporting receiving a couple of faulty bottles over a 10 year period.

I know some people who will quite happily complain about a restaurant meal and get it sent back. I tend to grumble about it privately, say I’ll never return, and then tell the waiter ‘everything is fine’ when they ask. lol.


I’m sure some messages online get lost in translation of tone, but can I ask who this directed at please as I’m sure they’ll find this quite insulting.

The fact that a business offers this degree of discretionary customer service selling a product remotely and having this good will is based on a commercial decision. If you don’t agree with it, then that’s fine, but the idea that people are stupid for choosing something when this offer has been made is quite strong.

The wine society offers this as a way to buy a wine which is difficult in many ways to describe in a way everyone ‘gets’ and gets more customers I suspect through this good will. I don’t knwo how many people actually take them up on it and I am yet to do so, but it’s a service offering made no doubt with a commercial brain. It’s a purchase agreement that they have a duty to describe a product accurately and sell it accordingly. If there is a disagreement with this then that’s really nice of the TWS. There’s no need to imply stupidity or some sort of wine snowflake-ness about the affair.


I’m of a mind that beyond obviously faulty - and I’d include damaged labels etc. in that broad definition - I’m not sure that I’d support sending wines back because they either didn’t represent ‘value for money’ (an absolute minefield with wine), or were not to one’s taste.

If recent history has taught us anything, it’s that ‘social contract’ and the unwritten rules that we all collectively try to live by, can easily be subverted to whatever an individual wishes them to mean to suit them, and the spirit of things can be lost. Wine is so subjective, the unscrupulous could easily abuse the (fairly vague) promise, and to the detriment of all (with regard to increased costs).

On balance, the inclusion of such a promise is one of the great things of TWS, and in the current climate it’s collectivist nature is likely to smooth out the costs associated with the country’s current direction of travel, but I do worry about abuses to such a system.


Interesting. I have a concern where some wines reportedly need a lot of air time to come to life and that I might then feel any unpleasant taste is due to my preparation rather than the wine itself. Chateau Musar seems to be one of those wines and having never tasted it yet I wouldn’t know what to expect when I do.

I have a couple of bottles of Chateau Musar 1999 in reserves and plan to withdraw them later this year. Going back to the guarantee, it is described as Drinking Now on the WS page, but between 2006 and 2020 on the reserves page. I am expecting it therefore not to be covered by the guarantee as outside the drinking window. I assume ‘drinking now’ never changes to ‘past it’ on the wine description. :slight_smile:

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It might, the vintage chart has “Wines that are past their best” as a category.