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Decanter Best

Best buys from Naked Wines this autumn

Discover the highlights from the Naked Wines autumn tasting, with recommendations for exciting new additions as well as some strong classics.

Online wine retailer and membership club Naked Wines held a press tasting in London this September, its first Naked-only trade tasting in several years, showcasing 100 wines from its UK market portfolio.

Naked Wines 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 finds from Naked Wines

As an online-only retailer, during the pandemic Naked Wines saw an 81% increase in revenue as orders from existing customers ramped up. Dealing with Christmas levels of demand in March and April 2020, the business stopped accepting new customers for two weeks.

UK membership numbers increased from 260,000 before the pandemic to its current 350,000. Naked Wines is also present in the US and Australian markets and has 946,000 members globally.

Expanding the range

As the dust settles post-Covid, Naked is looking to fill gaps in its range as well as premiumise some of its offerings.

Buying director Matt Smith said the business recognises the areas it isn’t as strong in, and it has also been listening to members’ feedback to find the areas where it  needs to broaden the range.

As a result, regions such as Bordeaux and Chablis are starting to get more of a look in, as well as more off-the-beaten track areas like Georgia and Greece.

Smith said Naked Wines has always been strong with new world and eastern European wines, and that this has been its point of difference. But it has been working on plugging gaps in Alsace, Italy and more traditional regions such as the Rhône Valley too This tasting showed great inroads in this respect. ‘We’ve been sitting on a few gems,’ said Ray O’Connor MW, wine director, and ‘it was about time they were revealed to the trade’.

Tasting highlights

Highlights from the tasting include two excellent Rieslings, one Alsatian and one German, a Treixadura from Spain’s Ribeiro, and Richard Kershaw’s Elgin Chardonnay. For the reds, a Cairanne from the Cave de Cairanne stood out, as well as Katie Jones’ Sunshine After Rain, a gorgeous South African Cinsault from Focal Point, Luca Hodgkinson’s GrenacheCarignan blend from Chile’s Maule Valley and a fantastic new Georgian red made from the Aleksandrouli grape.

Also new to the range is Naked’s first orange wine, made in Greece from the Moschofilero grape. In the pipeline is a new English winemaker based in Derbyshire.

Despite some turbulence in recent times, Naked bolstered its wine team last year with the addition of Matt Smith as buying director, who comes with a wealth of experience buying for Waitrose, Majestic, Berry Bros & Rudd and Bibendum.

Green Champion Award

It was announced last week that Naked Wines won the Green Champion Award at the Decanter Retailer Awards 2022.

Naked was praised by the judges for its efforts on both the micro scale (LED lighting in its Norwich HQ and recycling waste) and the macro scale (bulk shipping and recycled boxes).

In its effort to cut its carbon emissions, Naked reduced the weight of 3.5 million new wine bottles and ensured that a further 2.5 million bottles  are fixed at their current light weight. ‘This equates to more than 20% of the total number of wine bottles Naked requires to supply wine to its UK customers over a 12 month period,’ said Naked Wines senior PR manager Sula Richardson. ‘By the end of the year, we’re on course to hit our target and save over 450 tonnes of glass – that’s over a million bottles’ worth. This will save the equivalent of 370 tonnes of carbon – enough to drive round the circumference of the equator 48 times.’

Pricing structure

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.

But being a member doesn’t just get you reduced prices on the wines, it also provides a platform 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.

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