SaMo-based Obvious Wines wants to make you a more savvy drinker

By Jessica Koslow

Obvious Wines prides itself on stylish and straightforward labels

Brice Baillie was born in a small town (pop. 1,000) surrounded by vineyards in the region of Champagne, France. He remembers drinking at an early age and always seeing a bottle of champagne in his family’s fridge—ready to pop whenever guests arrived.

After his town’s harvest each year, all the locals would grab the leftover grapes, and his dad would make moonshine alcohol in the wine cellar. While out walking, you could expect to run into someone with a champagne bottle in a backpack, ready to share. Baillie’s first job was actually working the harvest in Beaujolais and Burgundy.

It’s no surprise then, that when Baillie relocated to Los Angeles and married an American woman, all of their friends would look to the “French guy” to order wine at dinner.

“Over time, I realized Americans are intimidated and confused about wine,” says Baillie. “And this should not be
the case.”

One year ago, the L’Oréal finance executive quit his job and launched Obvious Wines out of a Santa Monica co-working space, because as his logo reads, “you shouldn’t need a PhD to drink wine … ”

“I’ve always loved wine,” he says. “I wanted to work on a product I can spend 90% of my time on: day, night and weekends.”

Baillie’s vision for Obvious Wines is to take the mystery out of wine drinking.

The wines are sustainably farmed from family-owned vineyards and marketed as “snob-free.” Baillie works directly with the winemakers to create the wines. Best of all, his labels give you lots of useful information. For instance, No. 01 Dark & Bold is a 2016 Red Blend, 100% vegan and hails from Broken Earth Winery, Paso Robles. Its best friends are chicken, tacos and cheese. The bottle’s label also offers a rating system (wine glasses, of course) for different categories, denoting the level of “body,” sweetness, fruitiness, acidity, and tannins, etc.

The names are quite illuminating, too: No. 02 Bright & Crisp, No. 03 Light & Lively, No. 4 Rich & Oaky, No. 05 French & Bubbly, No. 06 Simply Rosé.

“We try to collaborate with real people,” says Baillie. “Like Light & Lively, I didn’t pick that name. We do a lot of blind tastings so consumers can pick the wines they like. It’s not some French guy picking wines. That way we guarantee that people like it.

“There’s also a movement of transparency,” Baillie adds. “We try to provide as much information as we can: where the grapes are from, what sustainable means, what are the farming practices.”

Baillie’s mission to make wine drinking even more enjoyable and enlightening seems to be working.

He started out distributing locally to stores like Tesuque Village Market, Blackbeard’s Crafts, Lincoln Fine Wines, Simon’s Market & Provisions, Alan’s Market on Washington Boulevard and Windward Farms, and restaurants like Wallflower, The Waterfront Venice, The Butcher’s Daughter and Southend.

Four months ago, he hired sales reps and has expanded to downtown L.A., the Valley, the South Bay and Orange County. On the horizon is San Diego, and he ships to a handful of states.

At the top of this year, the world was introduced to Obvious Wines on the competitive reality show “Shark Tank.”

“It was weird to be on TV,” says Baillie, sitting in the large conference room of Village Workspaces on Marine Street, sipping his morning coffee. “The filming aspect was fun and scary: fun to be in Sony Studios with my name on a trailer but scary because you don’t know how it will go. There’s no rehearsal. It’s not staged. You have no control over what they show on TV. It’s a 45-minute interview, and the final cut is edited into 10 minutes.”

He continues: “But it was great because of the exposure. We get still emails from people who saw us.”

Although Baillie made a deal with QVC Queen and entrepreneur Lori Greiner on the set, the two did not agree on the terms in real life.

“The sharks all tasted the wines and liked them,” says Baillie. “They saw the value of the concept. That was a business stamp of approval. Even Kevin O’Leary, aka Mr. Wonderful, who’s a wine aficionado, liked the wines. ‘Shark Tank’ was great for us.”

Obvious Wines certainly isn’t looking to elevate anyone to wine expert overnight, but it does feel quite nice to rattle off educated comments like: “Dark & Bold goes nice with chicken, or Bright & Crisp is lovely in the afternoon.”

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