This "Shark Tank" for wine uses crowdfunding from customers to support small winemakers - and makes good wine available for cheap
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- NakedWines.com is a 10-year-old company that invests directly into independent winemakers to bring unique, high-end wine to consumers for cheap prices.
- You can use it as a traditional wine store and buy by the bottle, or you can become an "Angel" member and invest $40 every month into a wine bank account - which is always available for you to spend - and get perks like 40 - 60% off listed prices.
- NakedWines.com is not a subscription, but its reimagining of the wine industry makes it easier to support indie winemakers across the globe.
- I tried it and was impressed by the quality of "easy drinking" wines and their 100% satisfaction guarantee.
- Get a $100 voucher by taking a 30-second quiz here.
If buying unique wines at wholesale prices and having them delivered to your doorstep sounds too good to be true, you should check out NakedWines.com. The 10-year-old company invests in 159 indie winemakers around the world and uses a lean business model to bring unique, high-end wines to market for cheap.
For you, NakedWines.com is a relatively inexpensive way to get good, unique wines sent to your door. For winemakers, it's kind of like a "Shark Tank" for their product: they propose a wine, it gets approved, and Naked gives them an advance to make it happen. Part of how the company has the funds to operate this way is through over 100,000 voluntary "Angel" customers who act like investors.
Once accepted into the program, Angel members invest $40 every month into their Naked piggy bank. This pool of crowdfunded money helps NakedWines.com invest in its winemakers, but it's not lost to Angel members; the $40 in their piggy bank can be used on their individual wine orders whenever they like - in other words, it's pretty much like a wine bank account.
If all goes to plan, it's good for the company, the consumers, and the winemakers - like Carmen Stevens, South Africa's first black woman to graduate in wine-making (funded by 2,000 Angels in 5 hours).
You can also just buy wine directly from the site as you would anywhere else, but it's worth noting that Angel members get special perks. They save 40-60% on all their orders; get samples of other wines included in their deliveries; get a gift bottle of Angel-funded wine worth $20 or more each month they order a case of wine; get access to Angel-only wines; receive invites to Angel-only wine tastings to meet the winemakers; and get access to an Angel-only priority hotline for any needed support.
I'd wager most people wind up on the site thanks to a suspiciously good $100 voucher for new customers (I received one inside the box of a Bloomingdales purchase). Using the voucher, I got the Discovery Case which had 12 bottles of wine across a wide spectrum of offerings from the site. With the $100 voucher - which you can also get by taking a 30-second quiz on the site - the case was $79.99, instead of its current sale price of $179.99 (it usually costs $264).
In person, the wines are good. I was satisfied and even a little surprised by their quality given the fact that my introduction was just $100 off lots of wine. The affordable bottles were what you'd call "easy drinking" wines - none that were bold and weird and revelatory - but perfect for casual drinking. Naked wines hit the "weekday wine" niche perfectly.
Shipping is also inexpensive. For orders under $100, Naked charges $10. For orders $100 and more, delivery is free - except for NJ, HI, and AK, (you can find rates for these states here). Wines will be delivered in 2-6 business days (Monday-Friday or Tuesday-Saturday) during regular working hours, but make sure that there is someone over 21 years old who can sign for the package.
One thing I would stress is that if you have any difficulty with your shipment (carriers try three times to deliver it), or you don't like a wine, you should contact NakedWines.com for help. My experiences with them were as a consumer rather than a reporter, and I was impressed by their easygoing willingness to make sure I had a positive experience, even when it wasn't to their immediate advantage. This means that if you really hated a wine you were sent, they'll refund you. The site has a "cast-iron, no questions asked, 100% guarantee."
But one thing that makes NakedWines.com even more appealing is that it's also pretty social. Winemakers and members interact. Winemakers get feedback directly from customers, and customers can ask them questions. Indirectly, members can rate and recommend wines to each other.
This communication creates a whirlpool of discovery and self-improvement, which is baked into the business from the top down to the granular level of your account; if you don't like a wine, give it a thumbs down in your Naked Me account. From then on, they'll help steer you away from wines that taste similar to the one you didn't enjoy. NakedWines.com also uses this as an indirect polling system, helping them determine which winemakers are doing the best job of making wines people really love.
All in all, it's good wine for an accessible price, with the opportunity to be as involved as you want to be. It's also easy to cancel right in your online account if you change your mind. If you just use Naked as a traditional consumer, it's still a cool system and prices aren't exorbitant without the discount.
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