Brice Baillie, an immigrant from France, created Obvious Wine to “take the snobbery” out of buying wine. The French educated MBA did a four-year stint at Price Waterhouse in Paris before moving to New York and up the corporate ladder at cosmetics giant L'Oréal. When he relocated to the Los Angeles area in 2014 and met his wife, he found a kindred spirit and fellow wine lover.
As a wine connoisseur, Baillie knows his stuff, but he finds the jargon surrounding wine a bit pompous. He, along with his wife, also came to recognize that many wine lovers were either intimidated or plain turned-off by the highfalutin lingo employed in wine marketing. So the couple set out to source wines from sustainably run California vineyards and market them under his own label. They started with tasting parties in their home and began selling their product in February, 2018.
The Wine, The Mission
The goal of Obvious Wine is twofold: make good, value-priced wines and make them accessible. As for the good wine part, Baillie uses smaller, sustainably run vineyards. For instance, the No. 1 Dark and Bold wine they offer comes from a small vineyard powered by solar energy. The label explains the product simply and succinctly: it's a blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon and 49% Merlot. Instead of flowery language like “a hint of cherry with an oaky finish,” they use charts indicating the “fruitiness,” body, etc. Instead of saying what it “pairs well” with, there are pictures of a chicken, a taco and a piece of cheese on the label.
Once they tackled the snobbery part of things, they needed to sell some wine. The “sales team,” which now consists of four people, went knocking on doors. They are in more than one hundred shops and liquor stores in the predominantly greater Los Angeles area, but they just started shipping. As a young brand, they hope to score a deal in Shark Tank episode 1011 so they can take their anti-snob wine nationwide.
My Take on Obvious Wine
I am a wine drinker. We usually have wine with dinner once or twice a week. I personally won't drink it as a cocktail (I like Bourbon and Martinis), but my wife enjoys a glass from time to time. While I don't like “doing” the wine snob talk, I am not intimidated by it. Then again, I am not a shy person. I can see how wine snobs could intimidate people; I personally am amused by them.
I usually buy my wines on Saturdays at my local liquor store. They have tastings and discounts on Saturdays, so I can try before I buy and save a few bucks. I have a few “stand-by brands,” but I enjoy experimenting with new stuff too. My tastes tend to be more towards the reds: Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Red Zinfandel. I go to the tastings, have a sip and if I like it, I buy it. I don't get into all the pageantry. I'll even mess with the “snobs” sometimes: after hearing a jargon filled description, I'll sip the same wine, make a face and say I don't like it.
I get what Baillie is trying to do with Obvious Wine and, if it were in my local store, I'd give it a try. I'm not one to order wine online though. I think, with some hard work and the right Shark, he could expand the brand quickly.
Will the Sharks see an Obvious Deal?
When any wine or wine-related product comes into the Tank, Mr. Wonderful is the obvious target. We will, undoubtedly hear him refer to his membership in the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin. He'll also ask the tough questions and ask if they've talked to Costco. Ultimately, this competes with his brand, so it will be a tough sell.
Mark has invested in several alcohol and wine businesses, but they haven't worked out. Getting nationwide distribution is a HUGE headache as each state has its own rules. Selling wine online, while somewhat easier, still has lots of hurdles. Mark and the other Sharks know this, so the only true hope for a deal is Mr. Wonderful.