January 11, 2009

A look at Naked Wines

By Andrew Barrow In Articles

Naked Wines Screenshot

We are here to help you find delicious, blow-your-socks-off, dazzling wines at sensible, affordable prices. And to make friends with the delightful people who make these wines.”

The Concept
Naked Wines launched 1st December 2008, established by Rowan Gormley, founder of Virgin Money and Virgin Wines (from whom 17 of Naked Wines staff were also poached), with the aim of offering small, low-production wines from winemakers who lack the financial and physical means to market their wines. The link between these ‘maverick, artisan winemakers’ and the final user/drinker plays through the site as does the idea of being a ‘facebook for wine lovers’.
The idea of, as they describe it, traditional ‘bicycle saddle, raspberries and cigar box’ tasting notes are an anathema to ‘normal’ wine drinkers, something I think practically every merchant has decreed to move away from. So expect notes such as “Classic Rioja…velvety smooth, soft and round as an opera diva” and “Imagine our delight when, having picked this beauty from a line up of 30 NZ Sauvignons…We discovered it was also the cheapest!”

The Website
It is not totally clear but there are two ways in which to buy wines from the site. There is the ‘traditional’ way – find a wine and buy it (minimum purchase 6 different bottles, mixed cases available or make your own) and there is the ‘Naked Angle’ way.
Several producers have offered six of their wines for free (actually you have to pay duty and the delivery charge), by ordering these free wines you also agree to pay £5 per month to the site. This in turn guarantees a 33% cash-back on future purchases using the saved, regular payment money or you can use the money banked against other wines.
I have a couple of issues with the design of the website – you can’t for example link direct to producer pages and you have to page through each and everyone (which is annoying if you commit to one and then have to scroll through every one again to get back to where you were initially). Disconcertedly the winemakers page scrolls right to left while the wines page goes from bottom to top.

Naked Wine - a personal page ie mine!Web 2.0
The idea of user submitted reviews of wines has been around for many years; big retailers such as Virgin and Oddbins already utilise such mechanisms, although I’m not sure if anything totally negative is ever allowed.

Naked Wines have a similar idea but have taken it further into the ‘social’ web2.0 world enabling a users page to be saved to such sites as Delicious, FaceBook and Stumbleupon. A users page (either private or public) allows user written reviews and ratings (on a 1-5 scale) for each wine ordered. ‘Chatting’ between other users and to the winemakers plays a part in the site but this is an area notoriously tricky to gain much traction.
Each producers page displays the conversations between user and winemaker. Dominique (one of the winemakers whose wines I purchased) used one such conversational opportunity to explain how one of their wines can improve for several years following on from a users query. (At least one user has taken the naked thing a touch too far though!)

Each user also has an ‘entourage’, I assume like on other social websites a list of ‘friends’, and also assume that this option opens up once a tasting note is posted.

The Wines and Producers
Today there are 29 winemakers listed, offering a rather small range of 82 wines. Coverage ranges from the lesser French regions, through several Spanish domains and down to Argentina, Chile, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. (Nothing from North America or Italy I note). Not all participate in the free wine offer and it is not very clear where each is based. (So guys how about adding a flag or country name in the Naked Angles column next to each winemaker?) I would also like to see the total number of wines each producer is currently offering.
The producers free offerings could also do with more information – OK, so you are getting six wines but which ones exactly? Of the 12 wines (two lots of six from two different producers) I ended up with 8 different wines, the cheapest I assume was doubled up in one lot while 4 bottles in the second were all the same (rather than two bottles of each as one would expect).
My order – six wines from Dominique and Baptiste Grangeon, (winemakers in the Rhone, described by The Wine Advocate as the ‘New superstars from Châteauneuf-du-Pape’) and six from Cinstranza Schwaderer in Chile came to £26.65 (2 x £10.83) plus delivery at £4.99. I haven’t worked out the full, normal, retail price.

The web2.0 aspects are superb; who cannot enjoy the direct interaction between the winemaker and the final consumer. Website design niggles apart the idea is great. I’d sign up to be a ‘naked taster‘ but they want ‘regular’ wine drinkers, not wine buffs. Perhaps the wines aren’t that good? I’ll find out over the next few days as I delve into my order.

  1. Greg Baker January 13, 2009

    I’ve recently signed up for Naked Wines also, having been a long-standing customer of Virgin Wines for their range of modestly priced, easy drinking wines…I’ve signed up as a “Wine Angel” for Bruwer Raats and rather enjoyed his Chenin Blanc ( http://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=601345 ). I picked up a mixed case in their sale but am yet to try any of these properly.
    And as for the website design, the need to scroll through all the wines is very irritating!
    I’ll be interested to see what you make of the wines you receive.

  2. Dylan January 13, 2009

    I’m rather interested by the Web 2.0 aspect the site uses. It’s one thing to have users interacting between each other, but I believe the addition of the wine producer is a great addition to this idea; it’s rare to have that type of direct interaction.

  3. Andrew January 14, 2009

    I’ve a bit of a backlog on the wine front but I’m looking forward to trying the wines immensely, Greg.
    It is the ability for smaller producers, without the ability for a full internet presence, to interact directly with the final consumer – a person often so far down the chain that they are but a distant imagined figure. Its a great idea as you say Dylan.

  4. Marc May 29, 2009

    A social network called BoozeMonkey started up in Australia in March this year, with the aim of bringing winemakers and wine lovers together [ http://www.BoozeMonkey.com ]
    The graphics aren’t quite as flash as the Naked Wines site, but it’s pretty lively and there’s plenty of interraction between the winemakers and the site members. And you’re right, people really do love chatting to the winemakers: it’s actually pretty cool to get messages from the guy who made what you drank last night, asking if you enjoyed it… the smaller producers are especially passionate about what they do, so it’s really important to them to know you enjoyed it, and they’re keen to recommend other wines for you to try too.
    So far BoozeMonkey hasn’t started selling wine yet, but clearly that is in the pipeline. Right now they seem content to just encourage people to talk about wine, to get to know the winemakers, to post wine reviews and tasting notes… and in typical Aussie style, it’s no holds barred, so if they think a wine stinks, they’ll let you know.
    How were the wines you tried from Naked Wines?

  5. patrik August 6, 2009

    great site! wonderful opportunity to buy really good wine! have never been engaged into anything like that before, but now decided to try it. just read a lot on the topic in the blogs I found or heard the experience of my friends. sounds pretty easy to realise such a purchase:) thanks a lot!

  6. geoff September 23, 2009

    Hi I tried naked wines back in june wine was ok, also found some vouchers for them and otherWine clubs from top 10 wine clubs they had a £60 voucher for virgin wines too.

  7. PhilR June 3, 2010

    Having been a naked wine angel I’ve now dropped my membership for 2 basic reasons:
    Firstly I thought the wine was overpriced in the first place, and less 33% was fair value. Some of the cheaper stuff was frankly, shocking value. I was paying a fiver what in my opinion, was a £3 bottle of wine.
    Secondly, to be a wine angel you’re putting money up front. How secure is the money? Of course it’s perfectly safe! Don’t be a cynic……Naked Wines isn’t Farepack….is it?

  8. Sue September 1, 2010

    I agree with Phil R – I’m about to cease my membership of Naked Wines.
    I’ve tried about eighteen different bottles, some were quite undrinkable and none of them were good value.
    Shame, as I liked the whole idea of supporting small companies.

  9. Peter September 14, 2010

    I’m still with Naked wines, but I agree a lot of the wines are just marketing hype also the prices are creeping up and up. Best value for me is the South African Chenin Blanc and Spanish reds. I found the £20/month was sneakily added in(I don’t remember seeing that flagged up). Certainly don’t pay a lot for standard Sauvignon Blanc or Merlot – these are 1.30 euros a litre in france at any local Co-Op and very good.

  10. Philip August 18, 2011

    I’m interested in Naked Wines but I don’t seem to be able to find any trustworthy customer reviews. There are a few sites with reviews on but I get a distinct feeling that the reviews there are seeded, either by NW or by their competitors. They seem to be either glowing or giving a definite impression that there is a serious problem with the quality of the wine.
    For an example of a suspect review, someone stated that the thought a wine was ‘a £3 bottle’. Even allowing for the fact that that review was a year ago, where do you find £3 wine?

  11. wine_scribbler August 18, 2011

    Well I cant say that any of my reviews have been ‘seeded’ or paid for by Naked Wines and I think that goes for other firm supporters such as the swear-meister himself Tom Parnell (see for example http://oldparn.com/2011/08/mauricio-lorca-angels-reserve-malbec-review/) .
    Generally I like the wines I have brought from Naked Wines, I havent reviewed all of them, and a couple weren’t really to my taste so I wont bother with them at all. Over all they were fine, very good some of them. I’ve just brought another mixed case as it happens. The winemaker support idea is also a real plus point in my opinion.
    There are plenty of other online retailers to explore – I’m about to buy a little mix from http://findwine.co.uk/ for example. I’d say delve in, buy a little sampler case, and see how it goes.


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