I’ve been a customer of Naked Wines for a while now. I like that they try to do things differently, and I like that they do it in a thoroughly unpretentious way.
A few months ago Rowan Gormley and the Naked Wines team decided to launch their new “Marketplace”. In a nutshell this would allow winemakers to pitch a half case of wine to Naked customers at a reduced rate, with Naked taking a 10% commission for arranging the sale and making sure the wine actually arrived.
Unfortunately Marketplace received a mixed reaction from customers. Some seemed unduly afraid of change and a move away from Naked’s previous “Advanced Bookings” system. I myself embraced it, and snaffled up 4 or 5 half cases of interesting wine at very competitive prices.
Ever ones to keep things fresh Naked Wines decided to revamp Marketplace, and “Marketplace II” was launched this morning. The new Marketplace will offer one case of wine per week from one winemaker, rather than many different cases on offer at the same time. Crucially in my opinion this allows Naked to really focus on that winemaker and sell their story, something which is at the core of Naked’s business.
This brings me neatly on to the first winemaker to feature on the new Marketplace; Carmen Stevens, the much celebrated South African winemaker from Amani who is keen to break out on her own and make her own wines. In order to do so she needed to sell a minimum of 1,000 12 bottle cases at just under £65. Each case (6x Carmen Stevens Chenin 2010, 5 x Carmen Stevens Shiraz 2010 and 1 Adami Pendana Shiraz) had a retail value of just under £115.
2 hours and 17 minutes later the 1,000 case minimum order was reached. Naked’s customers filled over 7 pages of the site with well wishes and congratulatory messages for Carmen. At the time of writing 1,165 cases have been sold, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Carmen reaches the maximum 2,000 case figure given the “auction” has another 6 days left to run.
As she passed her 1,000 case target Carmen posted, “Thank you to each and very one for making today so spectacular, this day will go down in history for me as one of the greatest days of my life! i am light headed , dizzy, speechless but have this huge grin all over my face!!! amazing, simply mind blowing, wow thank you, thank you!”.
It’s an undoubted success for Carmen who will now have the funds to break out on her own, and it’s a success for Naked too who have been rewarded for sticking by their guns in the face of a fair bit of (often undeserved) criticism for their initial Marketplace design. The challenge now is how they follow this next week. Will they always have the back story to match the wines on offer?
Either way, it’s great news for Carmen and i’m sure Naked will have something else up their sleeve for the coming weeks to combat the wine equivalent of the “difficult second album”……
Having initially worked as a marketing manager of Adnams in the UK, Cathy moved to South Africa in 2001 where she now spends her time freelance drinking, eating, writing, judging, teaching and educating about wine.
Cathy is currently the freelance editor for Food24.com and is a genuine South African wine authority. She’s also a Leeds United fan, but don’t hold that against her…
(1) How did you first get into wine? I joined Adnams Wine Merchants in the 1990’s as direct marketing co-ordinator for their wine department. At the time, all I knew about wine was that it came in 3 colours, if it was under £5 then I bought it and if it was over £5 then I didn’t. Luckily Adnams are big believers in education for their staff and within 2 years I’d done the certificates and the Diploma at WSET which set me on the right track.
(2) Do you believe Chenin Blanc is the grape South Africa should be pinning its hopes to, or just another grape that South Africa produces well? I think pinning our hopes on one style or variety is a bit naïve. Look at New Zealand and how they’ve struggled to be known for anything other than (increasingly) mediocre Sauvignon Blanc? Yes, we can make world-beating Chenin and we need to keep shouting about it, but there is an incredible diversity of terroirs here in SA – loads of different soil types, old vines, hot and cool climates etc etc so we actually have potential to do a lot of varieties well. I think SA deserves to be known for higher quality wines than perhaps it is at the moment, but in general I would say I’m very excited about some of the Cabernet Francs and Petit Verdots I’ve had recently (and blends thereof) and I agree with Neal Martin that the best of our Chardonnays are right up there with the world’s top stuff.
(3) What’s your favourite wine style? Anything that’s balanced. I don’t care if it’s wooded, unwooded, red, white, dry, off-dry – just as long as no one part of the wine dominates and everything hangs together and moves through your mouth nicely.
(4) Can you recommend one “must do” experience for someone travelling to South Africa’s winelands? A five hour lunch outside in the sunshine at one of our amazing restaurants. I’d suggest Pierneef a la Motte, Long Table at Dombeya, Overture at Hidden Valley or Tokara.
(5) Finally, if you were any wine, what wine would you be and why? Bleurgh – hate this question!!! Something down to earth, satisfying, well-priced that you can drink everyday. Constant talking about the top aspirational stuff is tedious in the extreme. I think people get more pleasure from a regular old favourite than they do from a once in a lifetime experience. And I like to give pleasure…….
I’m pleased to announce that in Cathy’s honour, question 5 above will now be retired from my future interviews!….