Online wine retailer Naked Wines has made significant steps in improving and developing its range over the last few years. Buying director Matt Smith and wine director Ray O’Connor MW have continued to plug what they saw as key gaps in the range across various classical regions, as they now look to introduce a broader set of wine styles to fulfil the tastes of new consumers.
The company uses a crowd-funding business model to fund production costs for winemakers across the world, providing its members, dubbed ‘Angels’, with exclusively made wine directly from its producers.
Scroll down for the top 30 buys from Naked Wines this autumn
Reports of slowing sales and £15m loss
Despite an increase in revenue and subscriber numbers during the pandemic (which shot from 260,000 to 350,000 in the UK), current UK membership numbers now sit around 300,000.
‘We haven’t been aggressively acquiring new customers recently,’ said Smith, ‘we’ve been focusing on providing an excellent experience to our members. Driving innovation, finding quality wines and spirits, broadening the range to a degree, plugging some gaps, and keeping things really interesting [for members].’
The delayed release of the company’s results for the financial year up to April 2023, published on 19 September 2023, shows a £15m loss, despite total sales being up 1% year on year.
The results also show that the company has had a ‘slower than expected’ start to the new trading year, and share prices have dropped significantly.
Founder and former CEO Rowan Gormley, who stepped down at the start of 2020, returned in July 2023 as the company’s new chairman. In a letter to shareholders, he said that trading conditions are tough. ‘High inflation, higher taxes on alcohol and falling disposable incomes has put pressure on sales and costs,’ he said.
Unavoidable price increases
Despite the company absorbing costs amid rising inflation and increases across the supply chain, the latest UK duty rise has not left the company unscathed.
‘We’ve tried to offset as much as possible, but when the new duty came in [in August 2023] – there’s nothing you can do,’ said O’Connor, ‘it’s a new landscape’.
Retail prices per bottle have therefore had to increase, which is being seen widely across the sector.
Tasting the range
Despite these price rises, there are still many wines to be found that offer excellent value for money.
The retailer has long been strong in wines from eastern Europe, and O’Connor said ‘Angels ask us a lot for wines from Croatia’. Check out the Malvazija Istarska from Kabola, the retailer’s new producer from the Istria region.
Highlighting under-the-radar regions is one of Naked Wines’ calling cards, and it has brought in two delicious new wines from the Custoza appellation within Italy’s Veneto region. For under £20, the Tenuta Monte Fitti Custoza Superiore has upfront aromas of ripe fleshy peach, apricot kernel, marzipan and preserved lemon and is easy to drink, succulent and lip smacking. Or for a little more money the Monte del Frà Sexaginta Custoza Superiore offers a whole other level of power and luxury, showing a real Burgundian elegance and refinement.
Chile has fared particularly well in the recommendations below, with one white and two reds to seek out. ‘It’s Chile but not as you know it,’ said O’Connor, and he’s right; all three showcase single grape varieties and are excellent value, with a lot of complexity and concentration on show.
The Green Grape logo
This year Naked Wines launched its Green Grape logo. ‘By working closely with winemakers we’ve reviewed how they have been trying to minimise their impact right from grape to glass,’ said Luke Landers, the company’s senior sustainability manager.
Of the 600 wines in its range, more than 100 have been awarded the new logo. ‘We plan to continue to develop the framework and reflect best practice as the green agenda moves forward in wine,’ said Landers.
The company has made some headline-grabbing environmental commitments, for example saving 500 tonnes of glass in 2022, and as of summer 2023 it has lightweighted 6.5 million bottles in an effort to cut its carbon emissions.
The company has also recently announced that it is making a growing number of its wines capsule-less, removing the plastic or foil capsule from 11 of its wines to date, which should be up to 17 by the end of March next year.
‘More than a quarter of a million bottles will be capsule-less – that’ll help us avoid more than 230kg of unnecessary packaging,’ said Landers.
Decanter Retailer Awards: Runner Up
It has been announced today that Naked Wines is the runner up in the Best Large Online Retailer category at the Decanter Retailer Awards 2023.
See more about the Decanter Retailer Awards here.
Naked Wines displays both a member price and a non-member price for most wines on its website. All wines are benchmarked and tasted blind against similar wines available on the UK market. The non-member price is therefore determined by the retail price of these comparable wines – what Naked deems the market price.
This can range from anywhere between 0% and 60% more than the Angel’s price, depending on what comparable wines they have been benchmarked against. Some wines on the site are ‘Angel exclusives’ and can only be purchased as a member.
Being a member also provides a platform for customers to engage and converse directly with the winemakers themselves. Through its online wine community, members rate wines and interact with winemakers, and their feedback ultimately decides whether Naked continues to sell the wines.
See tasting notes and scores for 30 top finds from Naked Wines:
The selection below includes both member-exclusive wines and wines available to non-members. Where the wine is exclusive to members, this has been indicated in the tasting note.