It is possibly no coincidence that in the same week that the world’s top wine ‘experts’ head to Bordeaux to evaluate the latest “vintage of the century” from 2009, that Naked Wines has chosen to update the concept for more modern times.
The annual Bordeaux en primeur scramble sees wine writers, retailers and other influencers run from winery to winery on a glorified “Chateau Crawl” tasting each of the top wines to rate them WELL BEFORE they are released.
“Let the customer decide how good a wine is, how much it is worth, and IF they are prepared to pay in advance for an allocation”
Do the Chateau offer this for fun? For education? For marketing? No, it is all about points, prices and sales. The global demand is such that the judgement of the visitors, plus the ego and history of the winery, helps to set prices for bottles that will only leave the winery years later then probably rarely be drunk and many spend decades being sold by one investor to another.
It is a shame. In principle the idea is a good one: Let the customer decide how good a wine is, how much it is worth, and if they are prepared to pay in advance for an allocation of that wine, to lock-in some discount on the final retail price.
Interestingly, regular consumers CAN start to do some of this, and not be restricted to Bordeaux either. Naked Wines has created a “buy early, pay less” system that means that the earlier that consumers are willing to commit to buying a wine, the greater the discount they get on that wine. They have even already selected a small number of wineries, some of them well know names (such as Teusner Wines) to launch with, and they do not cost £200+ a bottle.
It ticks a lot of boxes for me on The Wine Conversation: it focuses on unusual wines with unique stories, it engages consumers with the wine process (which inevitably includes distribution) and it still gives them a unique price advantage (i.e. discount).
I do worry about how many wine consumers are really willing to part with their cash in advance, when the wine could take months to arrive and they have to buy a case, but it is a great start.
I also wonder whether the discount being offered is really attributable simply to removing risk and some of the costs of sale (it amounts to a 40%+ discount in some cases), but if the consumer is satisfied that the final retail price is real, and that they really are getting a discount and offering help to wineries, then maybe the model will become established.
We might be seeing something very new in wine buying here, it could be fun to be part of it.
Disclosure: I am a Naked Wines customer and I have already “invested” in one of these wines