I’m pleased to be able to offer Wine Ninjas readers a Naked Wines £60 off discount voucher code. But how good are the wines? I’ll get to that shortly…
(NOTE: Although this is a sponsored post, the content was written by me (Gary Rose/The Wine Ninjas) and all opinions are a true reflection of my views.)
A couple of weekends ago, at a 40th birthday party, three friends independently (and with no prompting) told me they’d just signed up to Naked Wines. True story. And this got me wondering about the reasons behind the company’s apparent eruption in popularity. Three potential factors sprang to mind: coincidence, the fruits of a recent marketing drive, and the stirrings of a genuine revolution du vin. Surely, I concluded, it was a combination of the three.
A marketing push makes sense, but has Naked Wines really ignited a sea change in the way people purchase wine? There’s definitely something intriguing about Naked’s philosophy and the way they fund smaller producers.
If you don’t already know, they call their customers Angels…
The Angels Scheme
The Angels scheme sees members investing £20 a month into supporting new winemakers and vineyards. This money is yours to spend on your choice of wines, whenever you like. In exchange, you get discounts on each wine you buy from the site. So, in a way, it more closely resembles crowd-funding than a regular wine club. The Angels’ £20 investment gets them much better wine for the money, by cutting out middlemen and backing hundreds of winemakers around the world up front.”
Sounds like a great idea, right? But they have had their share of cynicism down the years. The Telegraph’s Victoria Moore, for instance, wrote a rather snooty article about them several years back, while in 2014 Jancis Robinson declared that “According to rumour, theirs is a bubble that is about to burst”. Well Naked Wines are still here. Only bigger than ever. And their supporters love them.
Conversely, Naked’s head honcho Rowan Gormley has a few things to say about the quality of the wines in supermarkets and rival wine clubs. But you know what, I don’t work in the wine trade and I’m no businessman. I taste wine, and write about it. So that’s what I’m going to do here. In the end, all you want to know is whether Naked’s wines offer quality and value, right? Ok, let’s get down to it.
I tested six Naked Angels wines, and I was really impressed with the overall quality. Here are my micro-reviews of the heavenly half-dozen.
Virgile Joly Merlot 2017, from the Pays d’Oc: It’s been a while since I reviewed any French Merlot, so this served as a welcome reminder of what I love about the grape. Super fruity, with cherry and berry flavours, and sublimely velvety on the tongue. This was my pick of the bunch. Regular price £15.99, Angel price £11.99. Please note, this wine was out of stock at the time of writing.
A very jolly Merlot indeed 5 NINJA STARS
Arabella Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, from South Africa: This is Naked Wines’ best selling vino of all time, apparently. With this in mind, I resisted the urge to mix it with the Merlot to create my own Bordeaux blend (only joking, I wouldn’t do that). And there’s certainly no mistaking this one’s Cabernet credentials. Dark fruits rub shoulders with smokey leather from the oak, while it has that unmistakably Cab odour that reminds me, weirdly, of classic-car upholstery. It’s very smooth for its age and, in contrast to a lot of old-world Cab, bitter tannins are virtually non-existent. Normal price £8.99, Angel price £6.99.
Sure, there are more complex Cabs out there, but for the price this one’s hard to top 4 NINJA STARS
Gayrel Sauvignon Blanc 2017, from south-western France: Sauv Blanc can, of course, be a hit-or-miss affair, but I’m pleased to say this landed in the hit camp with a hefty thump. In fact it was, by a nose, my favourite of the whites. Smokey apple and zesty lime combine with a beautiful clean, fresh acidity. Normal price £10.99, Angel price £7.99.
This isn’t a million miles from a Pouilly-Fumé, making it a genuine steal, especially at the Angels’ price. 4.5 NINJA STARS
Vivolo Pinot Grigio 2017, from Veneto, Italy: Italian Pinot Grigio is always a crowd-pleaser and this one has the grape’s trademark minerality and apple-and-pear flavours, coupled with an interesting hit of sour orange on the tongue. Normal price £9.49, Angel price £6.99.
I prefer whites with more bite, but this is light, subtle and refreshing and very good value at the Angels’ price. 4 NINJA STARS
Kruger Family Wines Angels Selection White Wine Blend 2018, from South Africa’s Western Cape: I love clever blends like this. This one’s a mash-up of Chenin Blanc, Colombard and Chardonnay. And while the Chard only comprises 17% of the blend, on a blind tasting I must admit I’d have pegged this as Napa Valley Chardonnay, due to its creamy notes of apple pie crust, mixed with white fruits and vanilla. It’s delicately oaked to just the right level, while the Chenin Blanc chips in with a touch of tropical-fruit sweetness and the Colombard applies citrus freshness. Naked advise “opening the bottle quite cold to see how the wine develops as it warms and open up in the glass.” And I couldn’t agree more. Normal price £10.99, Angel price £7.99.
Alongside the Gayrel Sauv Blanc, this my top tip for value for money 4.5 NINJA STARS
David Seijas Garnacha 2017, from Aragon, Spain: I love the unusual, Game of Thronesy label on this one, which bursts and pops with red berry and cherry aromas, against a subtle backbone of eucalyptus and oak. Very smooth with a haze of tannin and a long finish and a fairly high acidity. Naked recommend pairing this with… Chicken Tandoori. Blimey, I’ll have to give that a try. Normal price £10.99, Angel price £7.99.
Send for a raven! Another high-value red, and perfect if you’re after something unusual 4.5 NINJA STARS
Unless you just skipped to the end (how dare you!), you’ll know by now how impressed I was by these wines, especially at the Angel prices. I’m not saying there aren’t bargains to be had on the high street, but in most places eight quid will get you, say, a bottle of Wolf Blass or Campo Viejo. Compare those with, for example, the Gayrel or the Kruger above, and Naked Wines is a no-brainer.