Naked Wines founder, Rowan Gormley, calls his company "a privately funded online wine company that helps everyday wine lovers drink like the rich and famous." They also help to crowdfund promising winemakers in the process. "Over 200,000 customers - called Angels," says Gormley, "invest directly in winemakers by setting aside $40 per month, all of which goes toward their next purchase. The company invests these funds in top-tier winemakers around the world to make wine exclusively for NakedWines.com."
One such vintner funded by these Naked Wine Angels is Spanish winemaker Tomás Buendía, making wine in the land of his heritage, the Castile region. "I have always wanted to create wines that reflect a sense of place," Buendía says. "The wines of my homeland are worth discovering and deserve a place in the world market, and I’m excited about the opportunity to produce honest, authentic wines so people can enjoy a glass or two of good, healthy wine every day." Thanks to NakedWines.com Angel investors, Buendía has the funds to create his own label and share it with the world.
"Tomás produces fantastic wines in one of the largest winemaking regions on the planet," Gormley says. "We’re looking forward to the big, bold wines he’ll deliver to Angels under his new label to provide a premium taste of Spain at a price a new generation of wine drinkers can afford."
Naked Wines spokesman Ryan O’Connell answered a few questions about the company by email:
- Naked Wines looks like a wine club, but is branded as a crowd funding venture. Is that accurate?
"Naked Angels aren't getting automatic shipments like most wine clubs. Nor are they forced to buy wine at a certain rate like most wine clubs.
"Angels put $40 a month into their Naked piggy bank. That's like a savings account that they can use to buy wine (whatever wine they want, whenever they want). If they decide they don't want any wine, they can withdraw money from their piggy bank for free (even if they want to leave us and close their Angel account permanently). So it's significantly different from the wine clubs I've seen.
"And it's not just branded as crowd-funding; it really is funding hundreds of winemakers around the world. Winemakers like my parents and me get funded long in advance of bottling day and it wouldn't be possible without the Angels."
- So it's sort of like a flex account for wine? You put $40 into your account each month and when you have enough banked, you can order a case?
"That's very accurate - and you can also spend more than what you've saved up just like a flex account. The big difference here is that you still have to pay the tax man. We sure wish we could make wine tax-deductible!"
- There is a waiting list to become an angel. Why is that?
"In 2014, we came dangerously close to running out of red wine. Exponential growth is great in most silicon valley startups, but it takes over a year to produce a bottle of wine from scratch and we were growing so fast that our loyal Angel customers were starting to feel the repercussions. This is the kind of business that really relies on treating customers like royalty - we have no business without our Angels. So we implemented a waiting list to help us time the release of new winemakers with the induction of new Angels.
"Now we know every thousand or so Angels on the waiting list will fund one new wine from a talented, independent winemaker."
- How are winemakers selected to be funded? Do they apply on their own? Can Angels nominate a favorite?
"Winemakers regularly apply on their own. Angels also nominate their favorite wines, and we'll try to track down the winemakers behind those labels. It's been pretty organic as we gain steam and momentum, more and more indie winemakers find out about us and join our ranks."
Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter