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Naked Wines looks to recruit 25,000 more angels by year-end

Published:  09 October, 2014

Naked Wines is hoping to have 250,000 angels by the end of the year, as it toasts growth of 49% for the year to date.

Eamon FItzGeraldNaked Wines business is in 'great shape'Naked Wines UK MD Eamon FitzGerald would like to grow angel numbers above 250,000 by the end of the year.

UK managing director Eamon FitzGerald, told the "business is in great shape", and has 10,000 angels-in-waiting, eager to buy its wines.

"It would be nice to break the quarter of a million mark [on angels] by the year-end. That would be some achievement for a company that didn't exist six years ago," said FitzGerald.

It already has 225,000 angels, or investors, who pay £20 a month which goes to fund winemakers. Angels can use their £20 credit to spend each month, or save it for a  splurge. The group's average basket spend is £100, with the average bottle £8. Since it launched its fine wine bond its average bottle price has grown by 50p per bottle.

The wait time for would-be angels is between 30 to 40 days. "It completely depends on whether there's enough wine to satisfy our existing angels. We believe that because our angels funded all the wines they need the best access to them. Once they've had their fill we can open it up."

Fitzgerald says it's not frustrating - "if we brought everyone in we'd get short-term gain, but put the long-term at risk".

It has just recruited a host of "A-list" winemakers including Jonathan Maltus, the man behind Bordeaux's  Château Teyssier 100-point scoring Le Dôme; Daryl Groom, former Penfold's Grange winemaker and ex-Ruinart winemaker Jean-Philippe Moulin.

"From our fine wine bond last year we raised £5 million, and that's enabled us to go and land top class winemakers and age some of our existing wines that bit longer, so they become truly sublime." To date the group has favoured young wines, as they're ready to drink now, but its fine wine bond allows customers to fund wines that require a little more ageing. This means Naked does not have to tie up capital to age the wines itself. It classes fine wine as those aged for more than 12 months.

FitzGerald said the group's bestselling wine is a New Zealand Pinot Gris, £8.99, made by Craggy Range's Rod Easthope and Jackson Estate's Mike Paterson. "Sales are 200% up on last year. These are superstar winemakers crafting something different and people are just loving it."

Its most successful winemaker to date is Marlborough's Bill Small. He started making wine for Naked as a side-project, now his are Naked's fastest-selling wines and he works directly for the firm.

"Our model enables us to identify the real talent. We put it on a stage and connect with our customers."

Winemakers are recruited in three ways: lots want to join of their own volition; there is a hit-list of winemakers - mostly those making wines for the most prestigious brands; and through its Archangels - those angels who go on trips and attend tastings to hunt down wines on its behalf.

It has 105 winemakers on the list and 350 wines from 55 places worldwide.

While there have been rumours of private equity looking to invest in the business, Fitzgerald dismissed this. "We get calls every week from them. Right now we're focused on organic growth."