Naked Truth

Well you’ve gone and done it. You made me start a blog.

It’s a blog about truth

If you read this blog, you’re going to gain an incredible insight into the wine world. I’m going to talk straight here. I’m going to spill the beans (and sometimes even the wine when I start typing furiously enough). I’ll endeavor to deliver the whole truth and nothin’ but the truth.

And the first truth is … I didn’t even want to start a blog.

A lot of the time, “wine companies” make a website like this and it quickly devolves into a regurgitation of their flash sale for the day, their 2-for-1 discounts, and the promos that they’re running on the mediocre wines they can’t get rid of fast enough. This will not be that kind of blog.

But we need a blog… you know why? Because you’re amazing!

Out of nowhere, 50,000 angels have risen up in the USA and taken the wine world by storm. Those Angels have raised $80 million and invested in 135 winemakers all around the world. There is a humongous list of boutique wines made by legendary winemakers and it’s all thanks to Angel funding. The wine wouldn’t exist otherwise.

Long gone are the days when we had just 9 winemakers, and emailing you once a month, we could fully update the Angels on all the cool things their money is doing.
Nowadays, we fund ONE HUNDRED THIRTY FIVE winemakers … just in March we released 15 wines. Three of those were from brand new winemakers who are releasing their first ever Angel funded vintage!
group photo of rowan gormley and angel funded winemakers
look at all those winemakers!
To do justice to all your good deeds (or all the Angels’ good deeds) we need more space. And this is it.

And another thing… we’re going to expose some things.

Another funny side effect of growing up is that we’re getting to know more and more about the wine world.

As time passes, we notice more and more things that don’t make sense. Winemakers getting ripped off. Wine drinkers getting ripped off. Wine experts talking down to the customers who help them make a living.

I don’t want this to be to soapbox-y… but I’m gonna speak up when I see things that don’t make sense.

Who the heck am I?

I’m an Angel-funded winemaker. My name is Ryan O’Connell and I started making wine in 2005 at my parents’ vineyard in the south of France. We made really good wine for a few years and then realized it was really hard to sell it. We made a name for ourselves as winemakers and wine bloggers, but no matter how much the press loved us.. sales crawled. Until we met a Naked Angel in the UK. They spoke up for us and introduced us to the wine guy at Naked. The rest is history.

My parents now make a fair living doing a job they love: making wine. I moved out to California a couple years ago to help launch in the USA. I still make wine for Angels and I also help other winemakers tell their stories.

I know I said I didn’t want to start a company blog. And I mean that. But it’s the only place I can do your story justice now. It’s the one place where I can go deep into details that don’t fit on the homepage. I hope you enjoy it and I hope we can be friends.

Feel free to comment or you can tweet me @mroconnell
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10 years ago

Great article Ryan. We’re crippled in Ireland with excise (€3.19 per 75CL bottle) and VAT (23% on the unit cost + excise), so I feel the pain of our UK counterparts and some. But the US situation sounds completely ludicrous. What we’re seeing here from an importers perspective is massive ex cellar prices of American wines. What exactly is the reason for that? It’s a shame because there are so many stunning wines that will never see the light of day in Europe, because they are so Goddamn expensive….

Naked Ryan
10 years ago
Reply to  Colly

Yowsers. And it’s even bigger taxes on sparkling in Ireland right?

In any case, US ex-cellar prices are high because of the sunk cost of marketing. It happened to us too at one point at O’Vineyards. We made good wine (which is a bit more expensive to make) so we charged a bit more than the neighbors. Then we had to spend a bit on sales to convince people that it was worth more than the neighbors. Which meant we had to raise the price more. And raising the price meant we had to spend even more on sales to convince people. which meant we had to raise the price more. Vicious circle. If you include the cost of hand selling your wine to distributors/importers, your costs have skyrocketed and your ex-cellar price along with it. And from the other end of the spectrum, if you can get that much from US distributors, you’re not bothered to lower the price and increase export. If Americans are willing to overpay, then the wineries will keep spending frivolously on the the sales and marketing to target americans.

The vigneron's wife
10 years ago

Hi Ryan! Thanks for the update on how it’s all going with Naked US and brilliant to hear you talk… I always enjoy so much your style of sayin’ it – and look forward to hearing more on what’s happening over there.

Kat xo

Karen S
Karen S
10 years ago

Hi Ryan. I really like the open dialogue. As a hard worker myself, and the wife of a man who has worked in the trades, we understand the importance of a fair wage for those who work hard. It seems the last few years those of us who work with our hands along with our brains are getting squeezed. Is it fair to ask what an average Naked Wines winemaker may earn in comparison to his/her colleagues working for the big wine houses? And if they aren’t spending weeks on the road marketing, are they able to have other careers or free time alongside their winemaking for NW? Or do most NW winemakers also still work for the big wine houses?

Naked Ryan
10 years ago
Reply to  Karen S

I don’t want to expose everybody’s salary (because they’re mostly my friends and they would get grumpy) — but I can answer your question in another truthful way. Two other truthful ways that each deserve their own posts!
1) The story of my family’s rescue.
2) The flexibility of Naked to make it work. (which leads to a lot of different types of arrangements/ earning levels that all have one thing in common –sustainability)
I’ll type both of these up as full posts soon.

Your latter question is easier to answer succinctly. Not being on the road marketing does give us time for other projects. Many winemakers have day jobs in other wineries. Some choose to continue marketing smaller personal projects. Many are consultants for multiple wineries. What’s fascinating is that after a couple years, almost all our winemakers choose to increase their Naked production and leave the day job / consulting business / etc. in order to be full time for the Angels. It’s not something we force on them — it just makes sense once they have a big enough base of supporters and a proven track record, we offer them the opportunity to make more wine. And most take it because it’s way more fun to make it here than anywhere else. There is a very big announcement about this that I can’t make until the winemaker himself has made the information public. Stay tuned!

Karen S
Karen S
10 years ago
Reply to  Naked Ryan

No Ryan, to expose salaries would be absolutely unfair and it should make everyone grumpy. I was just thinking a generalization…perhaps in a percentage more, or they have the chance to work other jobs, related or otherwise which then increases their standard of living. And I assume the more varieties or the larger batch they make, the more their income would grow. As an angel, I believe most of us want our winemakers to be as profitable as they can be while still allowing a profit margin for the NW company and keeping fair and reasonable pricing for us as consumers and supporters. I think it all goes along with your theme of exposing an industry. I can’t imagine a winemaker not wanting to work with you guys! Thanks Ryan!


[…] one of our Angels, Karen, asked a very good question in the comments to another post so I’m going to go into a little more […]

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