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Naked Wines dons $10M to sell you more wine for less

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How do you become a naked angel without taking off your clothes? By buying wine.

Naked Wines has raised $10 million to expand its online wine store internationally.

The company claims to be the “first customer-funded online wine retailer.” Its community of 150,000 wine drinkers, known as “angels,” put $40 a month into their Naked Wines account. This money is then invested into independent winemakers, in exchange for exclusivity and wholesale pricing. Drinkers get wine for up to 40% to 60% off, and support small winemakers at the same time.

Over the past five years, more than $40 million has been invested in 130 winemakers on four continents. The company was founded in the U.K. and expanded into the U.S. and Australia in 2012. It now ships 10 million bottles of wine a year and is headquartered in Napa.

Selling wine online can be tough because the costs of marketing and shipping wine are high. Naked Wines does more than sell wine, however. It puts money towards grapes, barrels, bottles, and winemakers and is “firmly on track” towards profitability.

Founder and CEO Rowan Gormley said in a statement that the goal is to create a virtuous circle for the wine industry that supports independent winemakers and makes “rich people’s wine affordable to normal people.” Like many other industries, independent artisans struggle to compete with larger businesses that have more resources for production, marketing, and distribution. Naked Wines aims to give these winemakers greater exposure so they can focus on making wine, rather than selling it.

Wine startups have been attracting a fair amount of attention and venture capital dollars recently. Vivino, a Copenhagen-based startup, recently raised $10.3 million for its app that uses image recognition technology to identify and catalogue wines. Snooth is another popular wine app that includes an online wine store. iPhone app for remembering wines Delectable is backed by $2 million, Club W raised $3.1 million for its online wine service that uses algorithms to generate personalized wine recommendations, and wine daily deals site Lot18 has raised  $44.5 million.

WIV Wein International AG led this round. WIV is a group of direct wine selling companies. It will accelerate NakedWines’ efforts in the U.S. and Australian markets.