Happy winedsday

Fake-ed Wines – the UK’s Spanish wine scam

Naked Wines abuse UK customers and denigrate the Spanish wine industry in a diversity of manners: mis-selling large volume Spanish wine as fake, small scale projects by signature winemakers; utilising farmers’ real needs and a false promise of preferential prices to stimulate consumers’ expenditure; associating a few genuine Spanish wine names with a long list of obscure own labels.

The inventive use of winemaker profiles that impersonate vigneron-style, Spanish producers is perverse: it tells customers a half-truth and sets a very poor precedent for authentic, small Spanish wineries struggling to stand out from the crowd with quality, artisanal wines.

It is even more perverse of Naked Wines to utilise the real financial struggles of grape farmers and small wineries to fabricate a charity-similar setting where customers are asked for upfront monthly contributions and continually told that these funds relieve producers and are indispensable to obtain the wine that they will be offered at (theoretically) wholesale prices.

Even if you accept that a wine purchased or specified and produced exclusively for the UK market may be referred to as Spanish wine, aficionados have the right to know precisely what they get for their money. Out of the 52 wines listed on Naked Wines as Spanish, only 7 are available in Spain. The use of own labels adds much vagueness in front of consumers and limits their access to authentic products.

 

 

Panoramic view along Tobacco Dock in London, with old ship to the right and The Shard and skyline in the backgroundTobacco Dock, River Thames, London 

Naked Wines on the boulevard of broken promises

According to Wikipedia, “Naked Wines’ customers (called Angels) fund independent winemakers from around the world, in return for wines at self-described “wholesale prices”. However, the Financial Times notes that most wines sold by Naked Wines are not available on the retail market, “making direct price comparisons virtually impossible”, and most wines are priced “close to usual retail price”. They currently ship wine throughout the UK, USA and Australia. On 10 April 2015, Naked Wines was acquired by Majestic Wine and [founder] Rowan Gormley was appointed CEO of the enlarged group”.

This is a real example of Naked Wines’ reply to an applicant in the spring of 2017: “Thanks for joining the Angel in Waiting list. My name’s Rowan and I’m to blame for all of this. Let me explain. Eight years ago I set out to make the world a better place for wine lovers like you. A world where the only wine you ever drank was lovingly created by insanely talented winemakers. Where the quality of every bottle was guaranteed top notch but you didn’t pay crazy prices. And a 100% money back guarantee meant you could always buy with complete confidence. Most importantly, a world where passionate winemakers could make a decent living. Where both you and they stopped being ripped off. Good idea?”

Apparently Mr Gormley has a private investment background rather than wine industry experience. Blame could in this case be an appropriate term. There are definitely hundreds, even thousands of insanely talented winemakers in Spain, making great wines with utter love and care. Like Antonio Díez Martín of Martín Berdugo or many others with smaller scale wineries. Why resorting to industrial scale wineries?. Why using wine consultants or contractors, mainly foreigners, shopping around or producing in an undetermined manner what seem one-off batches for opportunistic offers with no apparent continuity? Authentic Spanish wine small producers would love to make a decent living and not being ripped off instead of seeing wine buyers get invariably distracted by the siren call of low cost, lower quality, industrial scale suppliers.

Angels do not seem to be getting divine bargains in return for their terrestrial financial support. Venta del Puerto 12 is available in Spain at €9.50 (it can be found even for a bit less); Naked Wines’ price for Angels at £11.49 does not seem like a remarkable purchasing negotiation achievement. Venta del Puerto 18 sells in Spain around the €13 mark; Naked Wine’s price of £12.49 (equivalent to €14.40) is a better deal but nothing outstanding. One can only guess what the actual value for money is with the 43 wines sold under Naked Wines’ own, exclusive labels that enable total obscurity.

Naked Wines’ UK customers miss out on authentic Spanish wines

Colourful, collage-style array of wine labels and their corresponding bottles on top

What Angels are getting is a biased perception of the Spanish wine picture with a lost opportunity cost. According to ICEX, the smaller 87 percent segment of all Spanish wineries account for less than 7 percent of total exports value. Small producers tend to concentrate effort and resources on agriculture and winemaking and marketing budgets are meagre. Off-mainstream Spanish wines struggle to gain visibility and a wider audience at international markets like the UK, dominated by large importers and retailers.

Spaniards need not be too bothered with The Sunday Times Chris Haslams’ article on how to be Spanish. Not even by Jamie Oliver’s periodically recurring tweets on a more than creative version of paella with heaps of chorizo. The poor image of Spanish wine is not only more misleading for UK wine lovers but has also an enormous economic impact for the part of the Spanish wine industry that offers value added, quality wine with terroir-specific character.

Heart touching, charity-style Naked Wines’ financial engineering

The whole model is based on a request for customers to make an upfront, monthly contribution of £20. This is justified as needed to finance some winemaking input or the wine itself. In gratitude, customers are elevated to the category of Angels and offered the wine at apparently preferential prices.

La Viña forms part of secondary co-operative ANECOOP, a fruits, vegetables and wine group with an annual turnover of €800 million (£690 million) and yearly sales of over 20 million litres of wine. It is very unlikely that Jorge Caus’ need of Naked Wines Angels’s money to buy oak vats as he states on the website, is in fact a real financial necessity. Likewise, it is hard to believe that sherry producer Alvaro Domecq, large Rioja winery Ramón Bilbao -part of Zamora Company drinks group or any other Naked Wines’ Spanish wine suppliers are in true financial needs of the kinds described and for which Angels are invariably thanked for.

There is a deeply rooted charity culture in the UK, where generosity of individuals does matter and is very visible. With their wine retailing business model pivoting around distorted financial needs, Naked Wines could be taking advantage of customers’ good faith and diverting UK consumers’ wine expenditure away from the small Spanish producers who are often in genuine financial straits.

Spanish wine on Naked Wines, unknown in Spain

Naked Wines Castillo Catadau Gran Reserva 2008 by co-operative La Viña, bottle front and back labels

Naked Wines Castillo Catadau Gran Reserva 2008 by La Font de La Figuera, Valencia based co-operative La Viña

How genuine is a Spanish wine not known to Spaniards?. Amongst the 52 Spanish listed on Naked Wines, the only 7 wines that are in fact available in Spain are Venta del Puerto 12 and 18 by La Viña, the two by Martin Berdugo and Alvaro Domecq’s sherries. Those 7 are the only wines entirely identified from all angles: what they are, who’s made them and where and what their market values are. Only two of them (both sherry) are currently available on Naked Wines’ website. Nobody can say though that they do not sell authentic Spanish wines.

Venta del Puerto 12 and Venta del Puerto 18 are well established products on the Spanish market and beyond. Customers willing to repeat can find these standard products whose prices and value for money have been corroborated by market competition over the years and not only by their own wine evaluation skills. However, Venta del Puerto 12 and 18 are out of stock. Amongst the four wines listed as made by Caus Pertegaz, the only wine currently available is Castillo Catadau Gran Reserva 2010. The name of co-operative La Viña does not appear on the back label.

The remaining 45 wines are left in the dark as to what kind of intervention there has been from the alleged winemaker. In some cases, they speak of buying grapes which means having to have them vinified somewhere. Where? It may mean buying grapes from one or more farmers. It may be that the winemaker is in fact buying wine from one winery or from more than one and blending them. Who’s actually made the wines in that case and where? Too many questions and too much confusion.

Naked Wines’ Spanish winemakers that are not

A Spanish winemaker can work full time for one winery or consult with several, usually smaller producers. If the winemaker works on a consultancy basis, there is an additional figure such as the winery manager who looks after everyday tasks and helps implementing the winemaker’s guidelines. In this case, the identity of a wine is normally linked to the winery itself or the land where the grapes originate. Only very exceptional, renowned winemakers’ names occupy a space above a winery and a vineyard which in any case are there too as a wine’s credentials.

Although winemaking techniques travel across borders more than ever, Spanish winemakers tend to be somewhat loyal and true to Spanish traditional wine styles. On the contrary, foreign buyers and winemakers working in Spain on behalf of large importers and international retailers often introduce wine specifications and formulae to guarantee and maximise sales in the country of destination, embracing characteristics of known commercial success like international grape varieties, lighter extractions, carbonic pre-fermentations or customised residual sugar levels in detriment of the genuine Spanish, traditional grape varieties and styles.

The Drunken Mason (1786) by Francisco de Goya y Lucientes. Detail

The Drunken Mason (1786) by Francisco de Goya y Lucientes. Detail

Antonio Díez Martín’s profile matches the full time dedicated model. In fact, he is linked with Martín Berdugo’s winery not only by profession but also by descent. The use of Diez Martín’s profile may induce a hasty generalisation fallacy. Other winemakers linked with a winery are described in such a manner that the unwary reader can think that they play similar roles as Díez Martín, but reality is very different. Let alone the figures cherry picking or, in this case, grape picking all over the country.

Naked Wines do not hide that winemaker Jorge Caus Pertegaz works for a “huge winery” but they immediately go on to mention that “his passion is getting into a small pet project of his own”, so that the reader is cunningly, swiftly transported to the fantasy world of vignerons.  The bitter reality is that Jorge is the technical manager of, Font de la Figuera, Valencia based La Viña, a co-operative owned by 1,500 farmers who nurture a total of 2,400 hectares, that every year processes up to 13 Million kilograms of grapes. That is the equivalent to the volume processed by all 77 Spanish wineries registered with the appellation D.O. Bierzo.

Same as Jorge Caus, Carlos Rodriguez has trained on the technical aspects of winemaking. According to Naked Wines’ website “Carlos works all over Spain. Getting paid to tell other people how to make their wines taste amazing” as a freelance winemaker for various small wineries. When you read further, his profile goes on about personal projects. The description of Morum Reserva speaks openly about Carlos buying grapes around Rioja. No information is available as to where, in which facilities or wineries the wine is made at. It is not even clear if one specific wine Carlos is apparently “making” is produced in one single winery or in more than one and later blended. Naked Wines list another 17 wines wines allegedly by Carlos Rodriguez that are currently not available. These include rosé from Castile La Mancha, Morum red Garnacha from Rioja, red and white Riojas under a different brand name, red Ribera del Duero, red Campo de Borja, white Rias Baixas Albariño and more.

It is worth mentioning that his “Galician White” is not even offered as originating from somewhere specific in Galicia but from Spain and nothing is said as to the grape variety used although part of the list can be red on the label of the image used.

Another example almost on the edge of illegality is their Trigales. It is only unenthusiastically linked with Rioja with a note to warn that they are not allowed to call it Rioja because it was made with an excess batch of grapes that the Rioja appellation governing body places outside the requirement of maximum production yields per hectare to guarantee fruit quality as head-on opposed to volume.

Franck Massard appears on the website as a French national, mainly trained and experienced as sommelier, recommended by Benjamin Darnault, another French winemaker. Massard is the founder and owner of Spain based Epicure wines, according to their web’s section “us”. In a different page, Massard states that they rely on the oenologist Dominique Roujou de Boubée to make their Priorat wines and collaborate with him on a Galician wine project. It is frightening that at this point, even Massard’s ensign Priorat wines are in fact made by a fellow French national, winemaker.

Epicure Wines offer a diversity of reds, whites and rosé from very distant areas in Spain. Their descriptions on the website vary much. In some

Pot, wine glass and book by Pablo Picasso. 1908. St.Petersburg. Hermitage Museum

Pot, wine glass and book by Pablo Picasso. 1908. St.Petersburg. Hermitage Museum

cases, they just talk about the region in general or Denomination of Origin. In others, a specific village or villages are mentioned as the origin of the grapes. Only one white quotes the full name of the specific vineyards used. If you try to dig a bit further and visit Franck Massard’s personal website, it says that when Franck moved to Spain and established himself in Priorat, he bought a vineyard with an old friend of his but then moved somewhere else not far away. You can see pictures of the winemaking process. Whether those are his own facilities or somebody else’s is not left clear. Beyond Priorat, Epicure Wines or Massard claims to make wines all over Spain. The recurrent question that comes to mind is the real extent to which he is involved with the wine making processes of all those wines and, moreover, how genuine is it to refer to those wines as authentically Spanish or in Mr Rowan’s words, “lovingly created by insanely talented winemakers”. Irony that Epicure Wines’ website states that the company’s values are veracity, honesty, integrity, experience, respect and maximum care.

Rioja wines Oh Sister Tinto and Oh Sister Superiore are not currently available on the website. Strangely enough, the numbers shown speak of 1out of 1 person who would buy again the first one and 3 people out of 3 would buy again the latter. It does not identify which winery makes them. Is it one or more than one? Do Ruth and Ana, the alleged winemakers, work for any specific winery? Wines are described as Tempranillo blend, but blended with what, in what proportions? In these two cases not even the vintage year is mentioned.

Stefan Lismond, presented as a Belgium national who’s got experience in the hotel and restaurant sector, trained in product development and apparently, as a result, is able to make cava and two different types of gin. Gin has never been a representative drink of Spain. In this case, the use of botanicals apparently originating from Priorat and naming the final product after a popular area of the city of Barcelona is enough to make it appear as genuinely Spanish. The product description is confusing. It assures that the alcohol has been obtained by “distillation of wine lees”. They probably mean distillation of wine on its lees or distillation of grape pomace. In any case, the resulting product has always been categorised as spirit or, more precisely, marc (orujo in Spanish), not gin. It is anyway irrelevant because only his vermouth and cava are currently available.

“Rodolfo Bastida is the head winemaker at one of Spain’s biggest wine companies. Which means he has access to vast quantities of plonk”, so reads the start of Rodolfo’s profile with Naked Wines. Well, precisely, one could reply. But that would not be entirely fair. Head winemaker is an understatement, he is the general manager of a group of several bodegas around Spain, including Haro, Rioja Ramón Bilbao. These bodegas belong to the privately-owned Zamora Company Group, one of Spain´s largest drinks conglomerates. These large groups tend and need to be brand and volume orientated but Zamora is not into the cut-throat, plonk flogging market like large scale, low-priced wine producers and marketing groups. Unfortunately none of these Ramón Bilbao group wines endorsed by Rodolfo Bastida may be purchased in Spain. At least not under these names. It is therefore not easy to know, compare or benchmark.

The Flying Scotsman, that is Norrel Robertson’s profile sounds truer to Naked Wines’ theoretical proposition around wine “lovingly created by insanely talented winemakers”. Although his name hints one more time outside the Spanish radar, he is based in Spain, works with Spanish wineries and has done so for many years and his own website talks about the ownership of 13ha of old vine Garnacha vineyards. And what is better, some of his wines -however and wherever they’ve been made- are in fact available on the Spanish market -not precisely the ones listed with Naked Wines.

Antonio Díez Martín is possibly as genuine as it can get on Naked Wines’ website. In an ideal world, Naked Wines’ customers looking for authentic Spanish wines should be offered those from figures like Díez Martín and real wineries like Martín Berdugo. They produce wines whose quality and value have been corroborated by a mature market like the Spanish. Díez Martín’s family originates from Ribera del Duero. He has trained in viticulture and winemaking and he works at the wine cellar and vineyards inherited from his ancestors.

Everything seems to fit in and genuinely illustrate the model that Naked Wines would like us to believe that is a common denominator across their selected team of alleged winemakers. Unfortunately, Diez Martín’s profile is the exception, not the rule.

Authentic Spanish wine small producers: some examples

ICEX

OEMV

Museo del Prado

Hermitage Museum


ANNEX: Spanish wines listed on Naked Wines

 

Franck Massard

Franck Massard Herbis Verdejo 2016

Bellesa Perfecta Priorat 2015

Franck Massard Desnuda Montsant 2015

Mas Sardana Cava

Franck Massard Retrat del Priorat 2013 – NOT AVAILABLE

Franck Massard Vinya Cucut 2014- NOT AVAILABLE

Jorge Caus Pertegaz 4

Castillo Catadau Gran Reserva 2010

Castillo Catadau Gran Reserva Magnum 2010 – NOT AVAILABLE

Venta del Puerto No 18 Seleccion Especial 2011- NOT AVAILABLE

Venta Del Puerto No 12 Selection Especial 2013 – NOT AVAILABLE

Carlos Rodríguez20

Carlos Rodriguez Morum Rioja Crianza 2014

Carlos Rodriguez Thank You Red 2014

Carlos Rodriguez Morum Rioja Reserva 2012 – NOT AVAILABLE

Carlos Rodriguez Black Label Bargondia Rioja 2016 – NOT AVAILABLE

Carlos Rodriguez Valpopi Ribera del Duero 2016 – NOT AVAILABLE (apparently this brand name is registered by Bodegas Viyuela S.L. in Burgos).

Carlos Rodriguez Morum Rioja Tempranillo 2016 – NOT AVAILABLE

Carlos Rodriguez Tempranillo Rose 2016 – NOT AVAILABLE

Carlos Rodriguez Tempranillo Rose Magnum 2016 – NOT AVAILABLE

Carlos Rodriguez Morum Rioja Crianza Magnum 2013 – NOT AVAILABLE

Carlos Rodriguez Campo de Borja 2016 – NOT AVAILABLE

Carlos Rodriguez Carinena 2016 – NOT AVAILABLE

Carlos Rodriguez Morum Rioja Garnacha 2016 – NOT AVAILABLE

Carlos Rodriguez Trigales NV – NOT AVAILABLE

Carlos Rodriguez Albarino 2016 – NOT AVAILABLE

Carlos Rodriguez Thank You White 2015 – NOT AVAILABLE

Carlos Rodriguez Thank You Galician White 2015 – NOT AVAILABLE

Carlos Rodriguez Morum Rioja Blanco 2016 – NOT AVAILABLE

Carlos Rodriguez Morum Rioja Graciano 2016 – NOT AVAILABLE

Carlos Rodriguez Morum Rioja Reserva Selección Especial 2011 – NOT AVAILABLE

Carlos Rodriguez Bargondia Rioja Crianza 2013 – NOT AVAILABLE

Stefan Lismond4

Cava Festis Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2011

Rambla 41 Vermouth

Rambla 41 Mediterranean Dry Gin – NOT AVAILABLE

Rambla 41 Lot d’Hivern Mediterranean Dry Gin – NOT AVAILABLE

Norrel Robertson3

Norrel Robertson Garnacha Syrah Old Vines 2016

Norrel Robertson La Multa Verdejo Sobre Lias 2015 – NOT AVAILABLE

Norrel Robertson La Multa Doble Pasta 2014 – NOT AVAILABLE

Alvaro Domecq3

Aranda Cream Sherry

Pedro Ximenez Vina 98 Sherry

Manzanilla La Jaca Sherry – NOT AVAILABLE

Ana & Ruth de Andres2

Oh Sister Tinto – NOT AVAILABLE

Oh Sister Superiore – NOT AVAILABLE

Antonio Díez Martín

Martin Berdugo MB 2011

Martin Berdugo Barrica 2013

Rodolfo Bastida8

Hacienda don Hernan Rioja Reserva Magnum 2012 – NOT AVAILABLE

Hacienda don Hernan Rioja Reserva 2011 – NOT AVAILABLE

Hacienda don Hernan Rueda Verdejo 2016 – NOT AVAILABLE

Hacienda Don Hernan Rioja Winemaker’s Choice 2015 – NOT AVAILABLE

Hacienda Don Hernan Rioja Crianza 2014 – NOT AVAILABLE

Hacienda Don Hernan Rioja Tempranillo 2015 – NOT AVAILABLE

Hacienda don Hernan Rioja Gran Reserva 2009 – NOT AVAILABLE

Hacienda Don Hernan Cepas Viejas Rioja Edicion Limitada 2010 – NOT AVAILABLE

 

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3 comments

  • First, thank you for giving me a space to give my opinion.

    The person that wrote this article must have dedicated a lot of time in screening what I do and he is right in pointing some vagueness in my involvements as a winemaker and I believe that if he does many other people do. This is the opportunity for me to try to be more precise and clarify also certain doubts that was raised.

    I apologize in advance for the length of the response but as Bodegasoul took great care in writing the article I owe them and whoever is interested a detailed answer.

    What did Naked Wines did for me?

    The naked wine team tasted and selected some of my wines and paid in advance at harvest time enabling me to survive as a small winemaker as I was at early stage of my adventure and needed that cash flow support.

    All the wines were financed by Naked wines as they claim. Later as I got more familiar with the team, Eamon, Ray, Fran, Joe to name a few, we discussed what the Angels needed and what wines drive me looking for more common grounds.

    The purpose was for all of us to fulfill a demand if possible. Yet, they always respected my choices to maintain my style (elegance as opposed to power although we know that mainstream is power and an amount of sweetness). You will not find any residual sugar in my wine.

    They further invested in me paying for some barrels to produce the Bellesa Perfecta.

    A mid-term investment fromthem allowing me to grow without going to the bank.

    The angels voted me as winemaker of the year in 2013. They gave me a prize of 50000 pounds allowance to create a wine. We came with a top Priorat called Retrat for Naked Wines. This wine is not on the Spanish market because we created it for the angels.

    Naked wines also pays me a monthly fee. I don’t have any other partner that do this. In return as a winemaker, I have no imperative/budget to meet. I am only asked to give a priority in looking for a good opportunity. This year for instance I have processed 2500 kilos of white grenache from the Priorat. They will be the first to try the wine when it will be ready and maybe will list it if the wine is suitable for them.

    My duty is also to keep engaged with the angels which is a unique direct link between the angels/consumers and ourselves the producers in the field. This sometimes may be a barrier for other spanish winemakers that may not commend the language.

    The article points out some missing information on the description of the origin of the grapes and the wines. I can surely be more precise and will do some work on our web presentation as soon as possible.

    But let me explain where I come from and my journey trying to avoid to repeat what is already mentioned on my web and fill some missing gaps.

    I bought my own little vineyard (3ha) in 2004 as a hobby in the Priorat ( El Molar). This was just at the time to learn winemaking with little thought about the future, just having fun learning. I then started my own business in 2008 almost from scratch and at the beginning of the recession. As a result I had to source grapes and/or even wines to survive.

    This meant that in a region like Priorat I had my own grapes supply but also started to source grapes in other vineyards. In all cases we are talking about one partner per region. I generally as most people didn’t write the exact source as this might have changed over the time for various reasons:

    We might have a working protocol in vineyard management that was not followed and the quality of the grape supply affected in which case I may have had to look for a better partner.

    When it comes to the winery where the wines are produced it is a similar case. As I couldn’t and still can’t so far buy a winery (It is planned but It is an investment that I can’t afford for now). I may not revealed the name of the premise since it may change and may not be in the interest of the winery to show that they are hosting other winemakers.

    However, I have no problem to say that in most cases I have built a strong relationship with my partners. To give you an example, in the Priorat I have been working with Salvador Burgos of Mas Sinen winery for many years. He has a great vineyard all organically grown grapes and was selling me part of the crop for the past 10 years.

    He also hosted me until last vintage but as he himself grew and had no room for me, I moved to a bigger facility called Buil I Giné whom I also know for many years. At the end of the day it is a facility that provides me with space and certain costly tools and machineries that are used once a year such as the bottling plant. For a small guy like me this is a handy solution.

    For the Priorat, I am harvesting my own grapes (not just supervising). Later on, I stand by the sorting table to screen and manually reject any berries that are not up to my standard and spend every day between the wineries where I am involved in Catalonia. (DO Montsant, DOQ PRiorat, DO Terra Alta).

    In Terra Alta I have been collaborating with the Mesies family for 8 years in the village of Vilalba dels Arcs. We exchange almost everyday through WhatsApp on the vineyard management and wines. Their father planted the vineyard and we together improved the quality by aggreing in reducing crop for instance via green harvesting. We produce approximately 20 000 bottles. I am very proud of this project as we together worked hard to make the best possible wine and gradually helped each other in building a humble business.

    In Montsant I am collaborating with the cooperative Mas Roig. As sommelier I used to hate coop. but experience showed me that in this instance the people behind are great profesionals. The general manager Josep Arnan is an ex-colleague and his chief winemaker Carles is very competent. They also host me, allowing me to bring my own grapes. (I have a tiny vineyard in the region called Vinya Cucut of 3 ha) they also allow me to select my grapes for my wines. And everyyear I conduct some experiments with no or minimum sulphites for instance.

    This explains that with less overheads we can provide wines like Desnuda in the DO Monsant at a very reasonable price.

    In other regions like Galicia where I make a tiny amount of wine, 500 cases per project approximately. These wines are single vineyard projects, I was collaborating in Valdeorras with bodega Carballal vineyard Os Pontones, in Ribera Sacra the parcel called Licis was used for the same wine in collaboration with the bodega Ponte Da Boga and a parcel called Sobral in Rias Baixas. These are projects lead by my passion. As I do live too far for regular visits, it was my friend Dominique that would take care of the technical part.

    Thus, I do not make wines all over Spain. I concentrate mainly in Catalonia on 3 regions. Then have these 3 tiny projects in Galicia with my friend and one wine in Rueda. The latter is also fairly small today 20 000 bottles which for the region is minute.

    My concept was to look for these regions usually in altitude and only the Northern part of Spain as I found more “freshness” in line with what I like and want to defend.

    My story in the Priorat is quite long but lets try to be concise.

    I had to sell my little vineyard in the village of El Molar as it was too small and in warmer part of the region. Sad decision but giving me the chance to buy the vineyard that I couldn’t really dream to buy in my life. It is in the village of Poboleda, the village where I was buying grapes and loved for its intrinsic quality.

    I couldn’t afford to buy this vineyard on my own but I am pleased to say that it is another great partnership with Melinda whiteside and David Forer MW. People passionate about wine excited like me to continue the adventure.

    As Naked wines stated I am french man and was a sommelier for many years. I am a bit less clear about my nationality being an issue to produce genuine spanish wines even If my fellow friend Dominique Roujou de Boubee has been helping me as a consultant for almost 10 years and there might be additional concerns about Melinda and David as they are Canadians.

    In response to this concern I would say that my experience as sommelier taught me what I believe is a great wine, tasting wine from all over the world. I won certain international recognitions as sommelier, passed the tasting of the MW that should valid my ability to taste wine and know what a good wine is.

    But as a sommelier I needed a person with a solid scientific background to assist me. After some trials with other oenologists and disappointments, Dominique Roujou de Boubée proved to be the best option.

    He consults quite a few other spanish wineries and has been living in Spain for many years and myself 18 years with the intention to stay. I love this country and the natives and my intention has always been to work with autochthonous varieties and make wines that taste where they come from.

    I have many spanish friends winemaker that studied in France and elsewhere abroad I should hope that their experience outside Spain was also personally and professionally beneficial.

    In addition, I promise that I have a great team of spaniards assisting me in the vineyards and wineries. Working with the local community is also fundamental. Their knowledge on the ground is irreplaceable, making wine is also making friends and create emulation.

    In an attempt to make the best possible wine, I keep questioning myself and discuss my concerns with experts.

    With Dominique we discuss for instance the possibility to craft wines with no SO2 added and the risks involved. Every year I conduct some trials. Dominique is giving his opinion but I take the final decision as I am responsible for my own wine.

    I also work with José Antonio Latorre a great naturalist. We together work in the vineyard to optimise the biodiversity. This means creating habitat for birds, ponds for amphibians, hedges as corridors for the fauna. Also re-planting autochthonous plants that in some cases will be used as plant extracts to spray in the vineyard.

    I always say that I want the vineyard to speak for itself, working more and more organically and my wines will most certainly be soon all certified.

    In Asia, people ask me why a frenchman is making wine in Spain rather than France. My response is always that I believe that Spain was closed to the rest of the world for political reasons but there are fantastic vineyards and old vines. There was a lack of sophistication and winemaking skills but over the last 20 years the country is showing its potential. There are increasingly independent winemakers to shed light in these terroirs.

    I believe what I say and hope to be not only a winemaker but also a genuine brand ambassador for Spanish wines.

    My model and Naked Wines may differ from a classic grower and winery owner. But I am the first generation and did get help fromNaked wines and still collaborate closely.

    I am building something possibly for the future generation with great respect for the local community. I should hope that we are all winnings from making quality wine that we are proud of and Naked Wines as far as I am concerned has been of tremendous help.

    Sincerely,

    Franck

    Reply

    FRANCK 8th December 2018, 6:31 am

  • I think some of the pricing comparisons are a touch hypocritical. Comparing Venta del Puerto prices doesn’t acknowledge logistics and UK duty charges which would inflate a UK based retailers price versus Spanish pricing.

    Looking at Bodega Soul prices for Petite Estones for instance is far worse – you sell for £16.20 but its less than €9 in Spain.
    Similar story cor Castrobrey Sin Palabras. Less than €10 in Spain vs £14.70 on Bodega Soul. Even worse I can but in the UK from other online retailes for less than £11….

    Reply

    Stephen 2nd January 2019, 10:27 pm

  • I’m Carlos Rodriguez by allusions answering to this wrote signed by “Bodegas Soul” representing just myself interests and with the only goal of giving clearly and transparency to all the references to my name. I write my answer only in my behalf so I won’t make any comment about the other people mentioned, just myself and my relation with Naked Wines.
    In the text are mentioned aspects as “inventive use of winemaker profiles” or directly “Naked Wines’ Spanish winemakers that are not”. At this point I just wanted to clarify several aspects about my studies and professional career:
    – I studied Agronomist being degreed in the year 2001 (Universidad Pública de Navarra)
    – I studied one course (2000-2001), around half of the Enology degree in Italy (Università degli Studi di Udine)
    – I studied again Enology (now in Spain) being degreed in the year 2004 (Universidad de La Rioja) and being awarded with the prize to the best academic records.
    – I collaborated for more than 6 years in a research with the Rioja University making my PhD in a project preserving grape varieties in danger to get lost for ever in the Rioja region. For personal reasons I needed to attend in my family life I couldn’t write my PhD for the moment.
    – I made all my professional career as a freelance working in several aspects in the viticulture and wine business
    o Since 2001 representing and supporting technically an Italian nursery around Spain and technical supporter for several customers foreign markets as in Azerbaijan, Russia and Moldova.
    o Since 2004 winemaker in several wineries. Actually I’m the only responsible winemaker (not really consulting, I’m the unique winemaker in all of them) for 4 wineries, the smallest one is my own winery in Ribeira Sacra where we make less than 10.000 bottles and my biggest one, the third biggest coop in Rioja region, more than 1000 hectares of vineyard and winemaking more than 5 million Liters.
    o Since 2007 I’m Tech. Consulter and sales responsible for AEB (biotechnology company for winemaking) in Rioja region.
    o Since 2010 I’m one of the Naked Wines winemakers making my own wines for Naked Wines.
    Of course, I can demonstrate all these CV aspects with the universities degrees, tittles and my work experience with the legal contracts, invoices, tax payments… No one contacted me to check about me before posting but after around 13 years in 3 different universities and more than 15 years working actively in the wine business, specifically in the technical side I don’t consider myself any marketing invention and I feel myself a good qualified agronomist and winemaker.
    I met NW in 2010, they were looking for “young independent talented Spanish winemakers” (these were the exactly words in the email I got from them in March 2010) to make wines for them. It started a process where I should demonstrate them my abilities and we defined a portfolio of wines I could make according my previous experience, region and grapes knowledge,… Since the first moment the bases where defined clearly, they will fund me to make wines for them. Main goals? Best quality wines possible at the best value paying attention to the wine (liquid you drink) and saving as much as possible in glass, labels, cardboard boxes,… everything under private labels for NW also as a security they were funding exactly the wine I was making for them no other projects I could have. It’s mentioned the word “charity”… I never had that feeling … but honestly, this was the best professional opportunity I ever had. A few years before I met Naked Wines I asked in my local bank for 200.000 € to fund me for start making several wines in different wine regions. I didn’t wanted any fix investments, just buying grapes and renting space in wineries to make my own wines (exactly what I’m doing now for Naked Wines) but the bank answer was NO, as they couldn’t seize the wine bottles if I failed. Naked Wines sent me 136.000 € in advance to buy grapes and other needed spends to make my first wines for them. Since 2010 I’m making more money and having more satisfaction making my own wines. I feel proud of it and was possible thanks to Naked Wines funding programme for independent winemakers as me.
    One thing I totally agree with this post and are official data…”According to ICEX, the smaller 87 percent segment of all Spanish wineries account for less than 7 percent of total exports value. Small producers tend to concentrate effort and resources on agriculture and winemaking and marketing budgets are meagre. Off-mainstream Spanish wines struggle to gain visibility and a wider audience at international markets like the UK, dominated by large importers and retailers”. What is totally wrong is in the identification of the “enemy”… I’m much smaller of what you consider small!
    When you write about small Spanish wineries, I imagine you refer and compare to the ones you represent, we could discuss about all the heritages behind, all the EU subsidies behind… to understand better all the specific problems for small wineries in Spain. What’s wrong with those as me that we didn’t had any heritage and can’t afford our own facilities? Talent comes through genes and heritages or through work and years studying to have the best qualification possible? Do you know how much money is behind what you call “small wineries” comparing with real small projects starting as mine? The wineries in your website are for me big ones comparing with my status! You wonder… “why resorting to industrial scale wineries?” I agree with you, but I’ve no idea what makes you identify me as one of them!
    About my wines… I’d like to explain all my range:
    – Morum: is my own brand for Rioja wines. One Rioja white and five reds, one pure Tempranillo, one pure Garnacha, one pure Graciano, one Crianza and one Reserva. My goal? To show the full variability of Rioja wines.
    – Valpopi: My own brand for reds out of Rioja region… including:
    o A Garnacha from Cariñena region
    o A Garnacha from Campo de Borja región
    o A Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero region. This is the one you mention in your annex as a brand belonging Bodegas Viyuela… NO, it belongs to me but I’m making my wine in Viyuela facilities.
    – Albamisa: my brand for whites out from Rioja region, for the moment only my Albariño from Rias Baixas.
    – Thank You by Carlos Rodriguez: special limited edition of some really personal wines I was making more for myself and family consummation :
    o Galizian White: honestly I don’t remember exactly how it was identified in the website but in the label it indicates the grapes (Albariño, Godello and Treixadura) and the wine region Ribeiro. Perfectly identified and 100% legally identified. Anyway, no idea of confusing anybody as this wine was just 600 bottles I made in 2 barrels as an experiment aging Ribeiro white in oak that I sent Naked Wines more as a present than a business.
    o Rioja oak aged white: other 600 bottles (2 barrels) of Rioja white aged in oak barrel.
    o Rioja red: the first time I made it, it was for my wedding… and I keep making some bottles from a specific vineyard. Just 14 barrels, 4200 bottles of my top Rioja.
    – Trigales: My brand for “table wines” or wines out of any Origin Denomination. I’m making a red, a white and a rosè. When you wrote “…almost on the edge of illegality is their Trigales” you totally demonstrate your lacking in respect for a trading competitor (Naked Wines) and for all the people involved in this wine (me as winemaker making it and the winery that rents me the facilities to make it). It seems me really a poor argument throw up false information that is useful only to show your own bad intention. I’ll explain you… In all the Denominations of Origin we have a limited yield per hectare. Obviously this is not possible to define exactly in each plot before picking the grapes and it isn’t finally know the exactly yield until the grapes are weighted arriving to the winery. We’re allowed to make wine with these grapes mainly under these conditions: there is a maximum per cent of overproduction accepted (the per cent that changes each year) and the wine coming from this overproduction must be declared as table wine and must be move out of the Denomination of Origen winery before 31st May to a table winery where it could be bottled as table wine. Being a real winemaker moving in the real wine business of each region and dealing daily with grape producers and wineries it’s possible to find amazing quality de-classified grapes and wines at bargain prices to give back Naked Wine Angels a great value wine. Another different question is what marketing uses Naked Wines to promote this wine… Here you go the link to see it exactly: https://www.nakedwines.com/products/carlos-rodriguez-trigales
    I personally asked Naked Wines not to use the word Rioja for promoting this wine and neither the other Trigales (white and rosè), in fact, it was just you who mentioned Rioja linked with this wine… It could even be discussed the no sense of why is legal to make it and illegal to communicate it? This is a 100% legal wine and legally labelled but anyway, just to be also 100% transparent, if you consider this wine is “illegal” as you indicated, the best you can do is contact directly with the responsible bureau in Spain to make a legal complain. To make it easier to you here you go the full address of the competent legal organization, the Agriculture Bureau of La Rioja: Consejería de Agricultura de La Rioja, Calle Gral. Vara de Rey, 3, 26003 Logroño, La Rioja.
    – Bargondia: It’s a private really small winery, vigneron concept (100% made by the owner, a son and his father) that I started to work with them in 2005 as winemaker and where we make some wines for Naked Wines.
    You indicate some of them were sold out… This situation demonstrates only two things: Naked Wines Angels buy and enjoy my wines and the other, the quantity Naked Wines commits me to make before each harvest is too small for what Naked Wines Angels demand.
    You exactly indicate…”In some cases, they speak of buying grapes which means having to have them vinified somewhere. Where? It may mean buying grapes from one or more farmers. It may be that the winemaker is in fact buying wine from one winery or from more than one and blending them. Who’s actually made the wines in that case and where? Too many questions and too much confusion” TOO MUCH CONFUSION, yes, too much confusion is exactly what you try to create! I’ll explain how it really works… It’s an obligation to indicate in the label the “Bottling Registration Number”. This is a number that identifies each winery and makes each winery responsible of their bottled wines. Each bottle has also a batch number and in the case of wines under a Denomination of Origen a legal label numerated. All this identifications are to ensure consumer the guarantee and quality of the product and we have the obligation in the wineries to follow the full traceability of all our process. In the Denomination of Origin, the Control Board Bureau checks this traceability once per month. This is the same for me and for the biggest winery in Spain, and of course the same for all the wineries you represent. It’s totally legal and usual to vinify your own grapes or bought to one farmer or more than one. The wine could be bottled coming from a single vineyard or blending one thousand vineyards or even wines coming from other wineries in an internal bulk market. Do you think is better one option or the others? Who minds… Each one opinion is valid. I have my own ideas as I have some experience winemaking but of course I won’t copy here the full traceability of all my wines! What it doesn’t make sense at all is that you try to create confusion for a supposed winemaking way you link with Naked Wines when all of the wineries, including the ones you represent, we are allowed to work in the same way! It’s just each one decision… I don’t understand why you feel so omnipotent to judge what other make especially if you don’t have all the info in your hands!
    In all your post you try to create a suspect of false marketing behind Naked Wines with a redundant idea of approaching Spanish wine business debilities to cheat producers and also cheat Naked Wines Angels as consumers. I answered you totally transparent and clear to demonstrate all your wrong arguments (generic arguments bad applied in my personal case) and your lacking of information about Naked Wines and particularly about me. It just show your aim of creating a bad name around Naked Wines. If you want even more transparency you need to know that in our website profile, inside Naked Wines website, we’re exposed to everybody posting free about our wine. I’m working with Naked Wines since 2010 and have never seen an edited post! I read and answer personally to all my post. Since 2010 this mean more than 22.000 followers, so 22.000 people who had the option to interact freely with me or reading all the interactions of others with me and more than 240.000 accumulated ratings for my wines. It seems me quite an open model… but there’s even more… Since 2011 Naked Wines is making a summer tour and a winter tour with open tastings in several British cities. I’ve the honour of being the winemaker who attended more of them… This means, 11 tasting during summer and 5 during winter in 8 years a total amount of 128 tastings (126 for me as I didn’t attend 2 of them in this 8 years). The average of people in this tastings is more than 400… I had 126 options to explain to more than 400 people everything they wanted to know! In other words, all these people had the option to try the wines and to ask directly to the producer everything they wanted! And even more, some of them came to visit me in Spain as I’m open to visitors whenever they want!
    Is this Naked Wines model transparent enough or not?
    Thanks, Carlos.

    Reply

    Carlos Rodriguez 16th January 2019, 10:53 am

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