Blog: Carol Emmas on the rise of Naked Wines
The fact that Slurp – one of the most established online retailers – has gone into administration is a bit of a reminder to the industry that even those who are seemingly doing things by the book are not exempt from failure.
However, there is one online retailer, Naked Wines, which seems to be infused with as much Californian sunshine and goodwill as its very laid-back owner Rowan Gormley, who has been in the US for the past two years setting up its new customer-funded winery in Sonoma.
The proof that this business model is well respected lies not only in the fact that Naked Wines was ranked in the Sunday Times Top 100 list as the 14th Best Small Company to Work For in the UK in 2013, but the enthusiasm of its winemakers comes across in spades. “It’s great, we’re just left do do our own thing and make wine we want to make. Plus Naked is incredibly supportive and fabulous at helping develop the brands,” said winemaker Benjamin Darnault.
Gormley’s take on failures in the trade is that the industry “values sales and selling skills over fostering talent, which is generally ignored”.
“The market is least about the product and more about the price. It’s a bonkers way of looking at things, the industry is currently very topsy-turvy,” he added.
Number three on its bestsellers list is Benjamin Darnault Picpoul de Pinet 2012, Languedoc Roussillon (rrp £10.99). Picpoul de Pinet is currently a variety that can do no wrong and you can see why. It could quite easily be the new Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc in terms of popularity and Darnault is making a fabulous job of lending himself to the cause by giving it a refreshing depth, quality and complexity.
Simpsons of Sainte Rosé Low Yield Roussanne 2012, Languedoc Rousillon (rrp £13.49), is a clean wine displaying luscious white and yellow stone fruit and a delicate infusion of savoury toasted oak that makes this a Rhône lover’s find in the less pricey Langedoc.
Gorka Extebarria Embeleso Rosé 2012, Rioja (£10.99). A dark pink dry Garnacha rosé made in the classic style that offers raspberry and deeper red fruit flavours with a good backbone of punchy acidity.
Naked winemaker of the year 2012 Carlos Rodriguez was not short of attention at his table, showing just how consumers currently love Spanish reds. His Carlos Rodriguez Rioja Reserva 2007 with its gentle fruit and velvety finish was a hit with Naked customers who all seem to know and love his brands well.
Former head winemaker at Craggy Range, Rod Easthope’s Hawkes Bay Syrah 2012 (rrp 15.99) is wine that defies its 12.5% abv with its full dark-fruit profile, herbal notes and a massively peppery finish.
With a total growth last year of 250,000 customers and a sales growth of 57% to £34.7 million, it looks from the outside as if Gormley has found the right online formula and selection of wines to keep all of the people happy, all of the time. “I just really like the fact we can integrate so freely with all the winemakers. We come here to the tasting and it’s like meeting old friends,” said one happy customer.