Virgin man gets winemakers naked

12 December, 2008

Virgin Wines founder Rowan Gormley is back in business with a

venture he has compared to an online farmers' market for wine.

Naked Wines is offering direct consumer access to winemakers across the world. In return for committing to spending as little as £5 a month with an individual producer, consumers qualify for discounts and, in some

instances, a half-case of free wines.

Gormley has started the new venture with 17 former Virgin Wines staff.

"The biggest problem with wine in the UK today is that only 6% of your money is going on wine," he said. "The more tax and exchange rates go up the less money goes on wine. I can't do anything about the taxes but there is a lot of money spent on marketing - and you can't taste that.

"The idea is to connect the winemaker and the wine drinker directly so you create a virtuous circle. The money goes to the winemaker so they can invest in better products

the consumer wants to buy."

The site began with 17 winemakers, including Bruwer Raats and Patricio Gouguenheim, though 32 have now signed up and Gormley predicts there may eventually be "hundreds".

The site also has a social networking dimension: customers are given their own page where they can rate the wines they have bought and discuss their choices with others.

Naked Wines is also relying on a panel of 100

customers to help select new wines for the site by giving their verdicts on free samples . "Anyone can nominate a wine - we don't employ a wine buyer," said Gormley. "One of the things I learned at Virgin was that a wine buyer standing in a tasting room is not the most reliable guide to how the wine is going to do.

"The most reliable guide is the feedback from customers, because they're drinking the wine in a real-life environment."

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