Naked Wines’ CEO Rowan Gormley has publicly apologized on Twitter for marketing material that told consumers not to trust wine critics.
Wine writers were outraged at Naked Wines' promotional material that read: “Don’t trust wine critic recommendations either – they need to seem useful or they’ll be out of a job! So they invent trends and are paid to push you towards certain wines.”
The first to raise the matter was UK wine writer (and Meininger’s contributor) Jamie Goode who, on 12 May, tweeted a screenshot of the material and wrote: ”For the record I have never invented trends and never been paid for pushing people to certain wines. Care to elaborate on the allegation Naked Wines?”
Other wine writers also expressed dismay, including Victoria Moore, wine correspondent for The Telegraph, who tweeted, “Seconded. I’d also suggest that paid wine critics is a small enough group for the statement to be libelous.”
The offending material appears to have been taken down from the Naked Wines site, though the site continues to challenge acknowledged wine expertise, saying, “We don’t employ ‘Masters’ of wine.”
Launched in 2008, Naked Wines is an online wine retailer. Its customers (called “angels”) fund independent winemakers in return for wines sold at “insider prices”. In 2013 it was named by the London Stock Exchange Group as one of the top 1,000 companies to inspire Britain.
In 2015, Naked Wines was acquired by Majestic, and founder Rowan Gormley made CEO of both companies.
Today, Rowan Gormley tweeted to Jamie Goode, “You are right, we were wrong, this is crass, I apologise.” Naked Wines has donated £1,000 to The Benevolent, a charity that provides help and support to members of the drinks trade.
Not everybody was impressed. “A genuine apology to a hard-working group of people who shouldn't be insulted by a retailer who presumes his company is above scrutiny from independent palates might be more in order,” tweeted Daily Mail wine writer Matthew Jukes. “It's telling that you think you can buy your way out of this grubby comment.”