Naked Wines

I have seen varying opinions of Naked Wines, and have for some time wanted to find out more for myself.  What better opportunity than the Manchester stop-off of their Wine Tasting Tour?  I was considering coughing up the £10 for a ticket when I happened to notice that JamieOliver.com was offering free tickets to those willing to write impressions on the forum there. Well OK, I admit I found the offer when googling for a free ticket.

First of all, what about the company itself.  At one level it seems little different from many big online merchants.  They tempt in new customers with vouchers, and offer headline prices that must in practice be discounted on many of their sales.  And in my opinion, the way they operate the discounts is particularly misleading.  If you pay in £20 a month into your account with them, it looks like you get 33% cash back on purchases.  Ah, but if you look carefully it is not cash back at all, it is CashBack, where CashBack has nothing to do with cash.  It is credited to future purchases, and you do not get CashBack on any voucher or CashBack element of your purchases, so over time the 33% becomes approximately 25% on what you pay.  So CashBack is to cash back as tuna n sweetcorn is to tuna and sweetcorn – you cannot have your cash separately and have to take what you are given and deal with it.  Did I ever say I was a Dinner Ladies fan?

But on the positive side, the company claims (and I have no reason to doubt) that they use the £20 subs to help small producers get established by giving them money up front for wines.  And they are also keen to promote interaction amongst their customers, and between customers and producers, through tastings and social media. Similar interaction is one of the things I find most rewarding about wine, but I and my wine loving friends achieve it without the help of Naked Wines.  So I see the interactive aspect of Naked Wines as basically a good thing, but I hope that their customers manage to avoid getting totally sucked in, and see beyond the rather small circles created for them.

The tasting was a bit of a scrum – far too many people for comfort – and there were too few spittoons.  The combination of these factors made it difficult to me to try as many wines as I would like, as it was difficult to get round to all the tables and remain sober.  I can see how there might be economic restraints on the size of the venue, but surely spittoons must be relatively cheap to provide. Other aspects of the organisation were great.  We were allowed to pour our own wines, though it turned out the tables were well manned anyway and the samples poured were generous. There was plenty of water available, crackers and cheese, and it was good to have the chance to meet so many of the winemakers.

Which brings us to the important question of the wines themselves.  I managed to taste around 40 or so of the 100 and odd wines.  Generally speaking I tried to taste the wines I was most likely to enjoy, but I was constrained by time, space and my ability to stand after large quantities of alcohol. Below is my opinion of them in terms of my rating system.  I’d like to stress that I regard this as totally subjective, and that all opinions were derived from a tasting sample in a large and busy room.  Clearly this is not an ideal environment to appreciate wines, but that is the way it was and every one was there to show or judge the wines on that basis.

They are listed here pretty much as they were on the tasting sheet. The headers are the winemaker names, and I have added some geographical information in some less obvious cases. The official designations were often missing from the information we were given. If you want that sort of detail, I am afraid you will have to find it for yourself from the labels on the Naked Wines website. I refuse to have anything to do with silly price points, so I have added 1p to all of the actual prices.

Antoine Simoneau
Loire Sauvignon Blanc 2010 £9.50 ***

Benjamin Darnault
Picpoul de Pinet 2010 £10.00 **

Samuel Berger
Hegarty Chamans Rouge Minervois 2006 £12.00 ****
Hegarty Chamans Blanc Minervois 2006 £15.00 ***

Melanie Tarlant
Tradition Champagne NV ***

Alessandro Botter
Il Barone Pinot Grigio 2010 £7.00 ***
Picco del Sole Falanghina 2010 £9.00 ***
Lunate Fiano 2010 £10.00 ***
Rimabaldi Montepulciano 2009 £7.50 ***
Tor del Colle Riserva Montepulciano 2007 £9.00 ***
Conti di Lucca Chianti Riserva 2006 £10.00 ****
Borgo dei Sassi Pinot Rosato NV £9.50 *

Carlos Rodriguez
Damascena Rosé 2010 £7.50 (corked?) *
Altamisa Albarino 2010 £12.00 **
Rioja Joven 2010 £7.50 **
Rioja Crianza 2008 £10.00 ***
Rioja Reserva 2006 £12.00 ***

Antonio Ventura, Portugal
Montaria 2010 £8.00 **
Casas Brancas 2009 £11.00  (corked?) *
Casas Brancas Reserva 2008 (corked?) *

Mario Negreiros, Portugal
Douro 2007 £14.00 (corked?) *
Douro 2008 ***
Douro Reserva 2007 ***

Oscar Quevedo, Portugal
Douro 2008 £9.50 ***

Peter Klein, Pfalz
Riesling Trocken 2008 £10.00 ***
Grauburgunder Kabinett 2010 £11.00 ***
Moscateller 2010 £12.00 ****
Riesling S Trocken 2009 £13.00 ****

Matjaz Lemut, Slovenia
Tilia Estate Pinot Gris 2010 £13.00 ***
Tilia Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2010 £13.00 ***

Gerhard Lobner, Vienna
Rotes Haus Gemischter Satz 2010 £13.50 ***
Rotes Haus Gruner Veltliner 2010 £15.00 ***

Chris Anchorage, New Zealand
Pinot Noir 2009 £13.00 **

Heidi Seifried, New Zealand
Classic South Pinot Gris 2010 £10.50 **

Stefan Hartman, South Africa
Manley Estate Pinotage 2009 £12.50 ***

Carmen Stevens, South Africa
Amani Chardonnay 2008 *
Amani Pedana Shiraz 2007 *

You will see that I thought a few were very slightly corked.  If they weren’t,  they were in my opinion rather unpleasant.

If I were to single out a single producer for praise, it would be Peter Klein.  All his wines had good varietal fruit, and sharp acidity balanced by a touch of sweetness.  I am not sure how popular the style would be for most Naked Wines customers, but for me they are ideal wines for summer drinking.  The overall stand-out wine for me was Samuel Berger’s white Minervois, which was delicious in a style that was diametrically opposed to Peter Klein’s. The red Minervois was pretty good too. I was disappointed with the Portuguese wines –  I really want to find some good ones, but many of these were sweet tasting and port-like.

Most wines seemed to be reasonably priced – maybe sometimes a tad too expensive at full price but better when the CashBack is considered.  I was not, and still am not, a Naked Wines customer, but I could easily have put together an enjoyable and good value for money mixed case from what I tasted.  So why didn’t I?  Well, I am trying to avoid buying wine at the moment – nowhere to put it.  But when I have more room I might place an order with the next Naked Wines voucher that comes my way.

Update 25/12/11: I see that Naked Wines have recently announced that they will soon be replacing their CashBack scheme by a discounted price only available to Angels.

About Steve Slatcher

Wine enthusiast and software engineer
This entry was posted in General, My tasting notes and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Naked Wines

  1. Steve Slatcher says:

    Just for the record, in case you read a recent comment here impuning my credibility, I have not been pressurised by anyone to remove negative comments about Naked Wines.

    It is true that I was unhappy with the tone of the three comments, but the ultimate reason they were removed was because they purported to come from different people, despite being obviously the work of one. They all had a similar style, 2 comments came from the same IP address, and all 3 had similar but obviously fake email addresses.

    If you want to be controversial, consider your own credibility before you comment!

  2. Naked wines are about to credit me with £120 to my current account after telling them that I’m about to go bankrupt, so thankyou Naked wines :D

  3. Anna Harrison says:

    When you join a wine club, is it not obvious that the “CashBack” they offer means cash back for buying more wine from them?

  4. Steve Slatcher says:

    I’m beginning to wish I didn’t delete those comments that were negative towards Naked Wines :)

  5. Barry Galbraith says:

    In my opinion cashback should be just that. When you get cashback from your mobile phone contract it is a cheque. Same thing with credit cards that offer cashback. Why should a wine club be any different.

    I have not used naked wines as the reviews I have read seem to be similar with reviews about virgin wines and some others in that each case may have one or two that delight but mixed with some pretty mediocre wines. I can do that at Tesco’s myself.

    Currently trying Laithwaites and to date have not been dissappointed with them.

  6. Steve Slatcher says:

    I hope you get on well with Laithwaites, Barry. All I would say is that I dislike their marketing material, which often comes close to being downright misleading. And, like many companies, they have an implausible array of discounts. But if you ignore the blurb and the discounts, you might still find stuff you think is worth the price, and that is the main thing.

    Personally The Wine Society is more my style – excellent customer service, no ridiculous claims in their marketing, and prices that reflect the true market value.

  7. peter kellett says:

    Misleadind it most certainly is! I wasn’t even aware that £20 per month was being taken off my credit card until I noticed it in the second statement featuring the amount. Can’t remember what i did or didn’t tick back in December, but if this is the result, the wording was certainly too opaque to raise any suspicions.

  8. Steve Slatcher says:

    Peter, that is a different issue to the one I was writing about. I cannot really comment on it from personal experience but the ASA has recently ruled on a very similar, if not identical, complaint against Naked Wines. You can see the full adjudication here:
    http://www.asa.org.uk/ASA-action/Adjudications/2012/1/nakedwines,-d-,com-Ltd/SHP_ADJ_170793.aspx

    I would urge anyone who thinks advertising is misleading to contact the ASA. It is very easy to file a complaint through their website, and I know from personal experience it gets results. Often the company contacted by the ASA changes its advertising without a formal adjudication.

  9. Tim says:

    I have just received this from Naked Wines and it reminds me of the sort of spam emails you get where money is extorted from people. I am very concerned. What do others think???? Email received below. A further email is attached in poor english presumably from ‘Mario’ but have not attached.

    Dear

    When we got the email below from winemaker Mario Negreiros, we used YOUR Angel funding to answer his S.O.S. call.
    Now the grateful Mario wants to return the favour.
    With the Portuguese economy in tatters, Mario had overstretched himself with new plantings and equipment, and the bank came knocking…
    Mario wants to thank YOU for rescuing him by offering a 6 pack of his Negreiros 2008, at 39% off the normal retail price
    Lovingly hand–picked and foot–trodden by Mario himself, then matured in expensive French oak, his Negreiros Douro is a lip smacking combination of Portuguese power, perfume and spice.
    There are just 300 6 packs available at this price – Help Mario now, and keep him out of harm’s way so he can continue making amazing wines for YOU.
    Get your 6 pack here for just £54.54 and your case will be delivered FREE* to your door by 27/04/2012
    Cheers,
    Rowan

  10. Steve Slatcher says:

    In bad taste at the very least, eh, Tim? It sounds like Mario is being presented as a charity case. I probably met him briefly when I tasted his Douro 2008 last year – as far as I could tell at such a tasting it was decent stuff. But it looks like he managed to sell all his vintage now, so we shouldn’t feel guilty for not “helping out”.

  11. Neil Hallett says:

    Happy to cancel NW account – rip off merchants – smaller print hangers on!!

  12. Ben Adams says:

    I’ve always had a good experience with Naked Wines. Although I don’t consider myself a connoisseur, nor tried other clubs.

    It was the cashback element that enticed me to become a member or Angel – I found it pretty clear it was to be spent on your next purchase. Once I tasted the wines I was very happy with the mixed case I ordered and quickly devoured it. In fact, that is how I started drinking red wine!

    I’ve found some great wines (big fan of Brewery Hill & Arabella wines) and find that most of the mixed cases are top stuff (in my opinion mostly 4* with one or 2 5*), with one or 2 I wouldn’t chose to buy alone (3*), but I’m sure that’s down to preference. I’ve never had any that I found poor (2*/1*) or wanted to get a refund.

    I like the exclusivity – I like knowing that you can’t get it cheaper in the supermarket on a deal, it saves me shopping around, but this isn’t foolproof as I am missing out on others. I also find that the wines are far better quality than those at the supermarket of the same price.

    But the catch comes on your next order, as you can’t have cashback on the cashback, meaning you don’t get 33% off. This has left me considering alternatives – just had a look at The Wine Society, may give it a bash.

    I’d say its worth trying one of the £50 off vouchers (Google is your friend!) if you like your wine. I personally recommend it, but definitely keen to find better wines for as little dough as possible ;o)

    Any other/better recommendations?

  13. Ben Adams says:

    *should read COULDN’T have cashback on the cashback – as it has changed to a ‘discount’.

  14. Hi Tim, hi Steve, here is Mário Negreiros, the man of the poor english. I´m affraid I didn´t understand all you said but I have to try to use the poor english that I have to say you somethings:
    1 – Yes, I were in serious difficulties, I asked for the Naked help and the answer were immediate, and I´m very thankfull to all the Naked people. They are more than buyers of my wine – they are partners who give us a hand when we need.
    2 – About the cork – it can happen with anyone. I already found some of my wines corked. I try to taste all the bottles that I open during the tastings but I admit that that one could escape.
    3 – About the sweetness of the wines, the only objective thing that I can say is: Negreiros 2007 – residual sugar: 2,6; Negreiros 2008 – residual sugar: 2,1 g/dm3; Negreiros Reserva 2007 – residual sugar: 2,6g/dm3. That means a completly dry wine.

  15. Steve Slatcher says:

    Hi Mário

    I totally understand that anyone can have a corked bottle. I only mentioned it because I thought it was fairer to say the wine was corked – better than to say it was a bad wine. I was also aware that the tasting was very busy at that point, and maybe I wasn’t giving the wines a good assessment. Perhaps I should have simply said nothing about the wine.

    I am pleased you got help from Naked Wines, and hope your financial situation is stronger now. I cannot speak for Tim, but I did not like the email from Naked Wine because of its tone. In my opinion, it would have been better if they were more straightforward in selling your wine.

    I am not sure why you comment on the sweetness of your wine. I do not see it mentioned above, but I may have said something at the tasting. I remember I found some of the Portuguese reds rather sweet, but it could well have been the aromas of ripe fruit. (Edit: Just noticed that in my post I did make a general comment about the sweet taste of the Portuguese wines.)

    Maybe you have seen on my blog that I was in the Douro a few weeks ago, but not quite as far up-river as your quinta I believe. It is a truly stunningly beautiful area, as the images on your website show, and I urge more people to visit!

    Muito obrigado

    Steve

  16. Tim says:

    Thank you Steve and Hello Mario. My comments were not aimed personally towards you or your wine. I felt as Steve has said the tone used by NW was not appropriate. It is not what I expect as a customer to be approached in this way. I support local suppliers at every turn and like Steve admire the beauty of your country I just do not support the actions of NW in preying on the UK market in this way. I have freedom of choice and if I wish to choose I wine on merit I will do so I do not need to be placed in a difficult situation in my own home or confronted this way. It is poor business practice and should not be condoned. I wish you well for the future.

  17. Well I have had my 7 month flirtation with Laithwaites and have today closed the account. No complaints about the wine… when I had two that were corked they replaced them without a quibble. Three things made me leave:

    1. Between 5 – 8 emails per month (I could probably have opted out though);
    2. They increased the price per case by £10 – that’s 12.5% without mentioning it (as far as I could find… but I didn’t read all the emails …. who has the time!?!?!;
    3. When I didn’t need a case I had to be proactive and cancel it (which I didn’t do … hence being a little overstocked at the moment!);

    I am going to try the wine society where it seems they will put together a case and I can order it when I need it as opposed to having to remember to cancel it. I also like the idea of supporting a co-operative.

  18. joleenfunk says:

    I just simply can not reach the people. The sent me a case of wine with one bottle missing. Not a big deal! I just can’t get anyone to actually speak with me.

  19. Jeff J says:

    I bought the Groupon for it’s plain intrinsic value. I mean, how bad could a case of wine be for $60? Okay, I admit I’m a bit of a wine snob, I love my $50+ Napa Cabernets as much as my wife does but we can’t drink them every night now can we? In the supermarket, I’m always searching for decent $10-15 wine that I can enjoy with every dinner. I’m not going to get the greatest wines anywhere at that price point, but I’m hoping for bargains and surprises along the way.

    Before I bought the Groupon, I combed through the nakedwines website searching for potential issues or loopholes that I couldn’t get out of. For one, I saw that I did NOT need to become an “angel” to get the Groupon deal. From what I understood, I could go in, select my wines, apply the Groupon and checkout without ANY further obligation.

    So, even though they had a new angel case with a sample of their wines, I browsed through their wines looking for the styles that I like. I created a wine “profile” that would recommend to me certain styles of wines based on my preferences. I found 12 bottles and placed them in my cart. I checked out and did only that. I did not opt into their Angel program until after I received my first case of wine.

    When the wines arrived, I too, noticed that many were screw caps. Being once an investor in a synthetic cork company, I knew the issues with real corks and the high percentage of spoilage (cork taint) that occurs. The industry would just love to run out and change many of their wines to screw caps, but they didn’t for two reasons…

    1) The uncorking of a bottle of wine is a tradition. It’s all about anticipation while the sommelier, with the white linen draped over his forearm, displaying the esteemed bottle of wine for your and your guests approval … the cutting of the foil … the angle of which the bottle is held as he (or she) gently presses the point of the corkscrew into the center of the cork … the turning and twisting … and then finally the pull … as the cork “pops” from the bottle’s firm and longing grip. It’s a presentation, an event (albeit small), a ceremony that holds tradition for many, many years. Screw caps don’t have that ceremony. They aren’t much different than opening a bottle of Diet Coke. The winemakers know that ceremony is an integral part of enjoying a nice wine and screw caps aren’t yet accepted by the American public at large.

    2) There is some concern about aging fine wines under a screw cap. Some believe that any amount of oxygen will hurt the wine and others believe that just that little hint of oxygen over the many years helps the wine to fulfill it’s destiny as a balanced symphony of fermented grape juice.

    If you do some research you will see that many countries and wineries have embraced the screw cap. New Zealand, for example, produces world-class Sauvignon Blancs. Every NZ SB that I have ever opened had a screw cap and these are not crap wines. Of course, this is just my opinion and I wouldn’t mind arguing this and much more on this subject all day long.

    Enough about corks and screw caps. Back to nakedwines … I received my first case, and in less than three weeks tasted every bottle. Many of them I reviewed and posted on the nakedwines forum. It was fun to interact with others and their reviews comparing notes along the way. As I rated the wines, the recommendations became more focused for my specific tastes. I once asked a professed wine critic “What is the best wine?” His response was, “The best wine is whichever one YOU like.” That has stuck with me throughout the years as an important point in my role as a wine snob.

    I looked at the nakedwines program some more and decided to become an angel and to order another case of $8 wine. Roughly the average angel price. They took $40 from my credit card and I immediately applied that $40 to another case of 12 bottles. My total paid with tax was about $110 with free shipping. Okay, that’s more like $9 a bottle, but from my prior case, they were worth it for a couple of reasons. It’s not a wine club where the WINEMAKER decides what to ship you. Nakedwines gives you the opportunity to choose your styles of wine andeven wines from a variety of wineries and countries. It’s delivered to your door speedily and free of charge. They have a 100% guarantee on all their wines. Try that next time you return a bottle of wine at your local store.

    I’ve since ordered over 100 bottles of nakedwines wines. Some are screw top, some are with cork, some are okay, but most are worth the price you pay and decent wines. Through the nakedwines program, you do come across some really good wines, but a good deal of them are made for quaffing (drinking now and lots of it!). For me, that was what I was looking for. I already have a cellar full of $40+ bottles of red aging for that special day, but for now… I want something to drink tonight!

  20. Steve Slatcher says:

    It was only with some reluctance that I approved Jeff’s comment above.

    It is typical of the gushing praise you see for nakedwines on various forums, which causes many to suspect that there is some sort of orchestration of their angels to support the company. The post was also peppered with six links to the nakedwines website, complete with the http prefix, which seemed to me to be a blatant attempt to drive traffic and google bots to the nakedwines website. I removed all the links and replaced them with a simple “nakedwines”.

    You can see the same post here, http://www.yelp.co.uk/biz/naked-wines-napa, along with a number of less positive views. Please go there if you want to contribute to that sort of debate.

    Sorry if I got you wrong Jeff, but there was no way I would approve your post without editing it and adding this comment.

  21. Jeff J says:

    Hey Steve – no problem at all. I was told by one of their staff members that they want to be known as nakedwines (.com) so as not to be confused with two U.S. based company called “Simply Naked Wines” and “Naked Winery”. That was my ONLY reason to stick in the .com and I think the wordpress translated it and added in the http stuff and link. I apologize for that.

    I have read the other reviews and totally understand their frustration. I went through a little bit of it myself when signing up and had to take some time to read through the small print. I just wanted to convey to the readers my experience and what I think is a good company which has put the wine industry and distribution methods on notice. Personally, I may be lucky that I did not have any problems with this company.

  22. John Tyrrell says:

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for telling me about this post. I vaguely recall reading it 2 years ago, but it is interesting to see the various comments that it has since provoked.

    Well I have signed up to Naked Wine, and I shall keep you informed. I like the interaction with the producers, and the idea of helping producers with up front purchases, but am inclined to think that the prices, without the “Angel discount” are slightly inflated, but I will keep an open mind for now.

    cheers

    John

  23. Jay Deen says:

    I’ve been a member (an angel : I don’t like this term) with the wine company in question (naked wines: I don’t like this name)for a year or so now and I have, overall, enjoyed the experience.
    Yes, I found the £20 a month commitment a bit sneaky and hidden on the original website.
    Yes, I found the original “cashback” method confusing and overly complicated (now replaced by a straight discount for members, thank goodness).
    Yes, I find some of the commercial tactics unnecessary.(eg getting an Email that starts “I’m confused that you haven’t taken up this or that offer . .) Of course you’re not confused – I just didn’t want to spend!
    Yes, I find the web-site too engaged with attempting to be a social network

    BUT

    I like the genuine attempt to work a different way, so as to put more value in the glass for the consumer (as well as build a prosperous company).
    I like the engagement with the wine-makers that shows through in the communications from them.
    I like allowing feedback (from those who want to join in).

    BUT MOST OF ALL

    I like the wines I have bought through the company.
    I have a background in the wine and spirits business ( 11 years with Diageo) and see that the wine business is hard for anybody to make any money out of. Now I am retired, I like to buy mid-quality wines and I want the choice that the supermarket buyers would take away from me. Wine-makers are the key. The Diageo wine company “Justerini & Brooks” built relationships with vinyards that is now, perhaps, considered old fashioned and too expensive a way to do business. I see Naked Wines (still don’t like the name) as building a new way to get wine-makers into the chain and connected to the consumers, via some financial commitment from the customer.

    I allow my £20 a month to build up for a while, then I buy a mixed case from various wine-makers that I’m proud to support in a small way, so that we all get choice. There are some cracking wines available at mid-prices. Try a Sauvignon Blanc from Mike Paterson (Lay of the Land brand).
    The world would be a poorer place without this (and other wines and wine-makers).

  24. Michael Patterson says:

    I have to say that my experience of Naked Wines has been dreadful. Most of the wine was OK as far as I can remember; however, their communication and account management is simply appalling. I have been unable to login to my account for months despite using the appropriate credentials, they called me to hassle me about the fact that I had cancelled my “Angel” payments & why wouldn’t I? I can’t buy their wine because they blocked access to my account after all (cock up rather than conspiracy I assume). I have since been bombarded with emails from their winemakers telling me how great Naked Wines is and how great their wines are. Despite being responsible for cocking up my ability to buy from them they emailed me today to say they’d cancelled my account but I could still buy their wine……. Odd, I couldn’t even buy their bloody wine when I had an account!! I feel short-changed by these people and their incompetence. I also agree that their “cash back” deal is disingenuous.

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