‘Tis the Season to Become a Wine Angel
By George Parkinson
We wine advocates, wine lovers, cork dorks, wine geeks, et al are always on the hunt for new, interesting, unique, and different wines. We constantly seek the unknown and take pride in being “that person” who found it first in our circle of wine friends. Often we travel distances to get that bottle. Living in Pennsylvania has often been a challenge in seeking out unique variety and selection. While our PLCB wine stores have gotten better in the last 10 years, we all know that a better price and selection is often found in tax-free Delaware or New Jersey, where a full or half case sale is often availablre with an additional 10% – 15% off the price. So we seek the strange, unusual, and interesting, and, if a good price comes along with it, all the better.
Last May, I was introduced to a website called Naked Wines http://www.nakedwines.com. I came across this on Facebook, and, after reading its mission statement, I quickly signed up as an Angel. Naked Wines does something liberating for the wine industry, and, if you are a true wine advocate, I highly recommend you too join their cause as a Wine Angel.
In today’s wine industry, there are just a few midlevel distribution companies that handle the thousands of brands that exist worldwide. We, the consumers, are often subjugated to the brands that our area distribution wholesalers opt to represent, which often leaves selection and unique opportunity off the table in deference to larger wineries who create and bottle dozens of second-label wines.
When I signed up for the Naked Wines Angel program, I was not sure how they would navigate the PLCB’s complicated shipping rules. In other open markets, direct to consumer (DTC) sales make it easy for a winery to ship right to your front door. In Pennsylvania, the compliance measures mandate shipping these wines to your local wine store, where the customer needs to sign for and pick up the package. It took Naked Wines 6 months to clear the Pennsylvania compliance rules, and, once approved, I was able to order and receive the wines, which I picked up the day I wrote this article. The entire process was easy, and most notable was that it was my store’s first experience with this company. Three of us ordered and received wines on the same day as well, so the news is out ahead of this article; and I am sure many others are soon to follow.
Not wanting to make this a political rant on open market vs. control market issues, my overall point is that Naked Wines represents the small artisan winemaker not able to have its wines represented by a wholesale distributor, and it does a great job of offering quality and value. Its website has great customer support and some perks for becoming an Angel. Once I placed my order, the wines were shipped out, and I received them inside of 5 business days.
The selections were made by everyone from cult winemakers like Randy Hester to well-known names like Randall Grahm (Bonny Doon), Ken Deis (Heitz, Phelps, & Flora Springs) and more who have moved off on their own to produce wines that are small batch and unique. The site offers the buyer a chance to read other reviews of the wines and to record your review as well. I am sipping a selection made by Matt Iaconis called THE GLOBETROTTER as I write this article. A deep-colored garnet red wine with notes of crusty French bread and black cherry cola, it was a nice wine for the chilly evening in front of a roaring fire.