The wine world is constantly evolving. As trends change, new leaders emerge with innovations that keep the industry fresh, a little funky and wildly interesting.
A few fortunate entrepreneurs get their start on Shark Tank, a TV show where people pitch ideas to a panel of investors. If all goes well, the start-up receives the opportunity for funding. If not, they’re bait…sometimes.
The show has pushed several niche companies to success, and the wine industry is no exception.
From more accessible labels to bottles of “Zinfantail,” here are six wine companies that got their start on Shark Tank.
Honey, I’m Saving the Trees
Ayele Solomon was born into a family of conservationists, grape growers and pioneering farmers in Ethiopia. In 2009, he visited the country’s endangered Kafa forest and found a compelling way to save its trees: use honey sourced from forests like Kafa to make wine. When Solomon returned to his father’s vineyard in Sonoma, California, Bee D’Vine was born.
Bee D’Vine is a type of mead, or honey wine. It’s made from two simple ingredients: premium raw honey and spring water.
Beyond its unique nutty and floral flavors, this “golden wine” highlights Solomon’s passion for sustainability. “Honey wine has a very small footprint,” he shares. “There’s no irrigation, no pesticides, no uprooting landscapes to plant vineyards.”
All four sharks on the panel dove in and offered $750,000 for 40% of the company. Solomon accepted, but the deal never closed. However, the company is buzzing today with bottle selections from Classic Brut to Club Exclusives.
Copa Di Vino
The ‘Premium’ One That Got Away
James Martin pitched his idea to the Shark Tank panel not once, but twice. Yet, the Sharks still didn’t bite.
Copa Di Vino, which translates to “glass of wine” in Italian, manufactures premium wine by the glass. The idea came to Martin when he returned to his family vineyard in Oregon after a trip to France. He envisioned a luxurious wine-drinking experience with untethered portability by virtue of technology that cuts the need for bottles, corkscrews and even a glass.
The result: seven varietal wines in single-serve plastic containers with pull-off resealable lids.
The panel clashed with Martin during both his appearances. The panel wanted to license his container to other wine producers. Martin wanted the Sharks to invest in the Oregon winery itself.
One of the Sharks, Robert Herjavec, told ABC News in 2017 that Martin may have overplayed his hand.
“I think in the second one, he forgot his place,” said Herjavec. “He is not the shark. We’re the sharks.”
More than 10 years later, Copa Di Vino is now the world’s leading producer of single-serve premium wine and one of the most successful companies to ever appear on Shark Tank. The panel might fancy a copa di regret right about now…
Zipping Up a Big Deal/Izn’t it Ironic?
Sometimes all you want is one glass of wine. Wait, haven’t we heard this before?
The Sharks did, too. But this time, there was something in the water. Andrew McMurray’s idea for single-serving, packaged wine secured $2.5 million from the panel, the largest deal in Shark Tank history.
Zipz Wine differs from Copa Di Vino in its design. The plastic containers have the look and feel of a “real” wine glass, with a lid that doubles as a coaster. McMurray’s pitch also differed from Copa’s proposal in one key area: he was open to licensing the containers. That was enough to spark a feeding frenzy that forged the deal.
Sometimes, an idea can prove to be too good.
The company couldn’t keep up with the high demand for its products. Today, Zipz Wine has rebranded itself as “Zipz Packaging.” Although Zipz no longer produces wine, its patented design can be purchased by winemakers and other businesses for commercial use.
Ruff Day? Pour Some Catbernet
Many pet owners treat their furry friends as humans. If fashion brands can manufacture booties for cats and dogs, why not wine?
Brandon Zavala worked to create pet-friendly wines “designed to help bridge the social divide between humans and their pets.”
Apollo Peak doesn’t contain alcohol. It’s more like juice or tea for pets, served in small tasting bottles so your cat can have class. The drinks are made from ingredients like beets and chamomile, barking names like “Chardognay,” “White Kittendel” and “Pinot Meow.”
The Sharks questioned the business model’s sustainability, but eventually threw Zavala a bone. Though a proposed $100,000 deal in exchange for 20% equity never closed, Apollo Peak continues to give pets a “pawsh” offering.
Air Cork/Wine Balloon
Seeing the Bottle Half Full
Not everyone sets out to finish a bottle of wine in one sitting.
Once uncorked, however, wine can lose its flavors and aromas through oxidation. How long this takes depends on the style of wine, among other factors.
For Eric Corti, the thought of wasting expensive wine was not a risk worth taking. After tinkering with the tubing of a blood pressure pump, he found a solution: the Wine Balloon.
It’s a simple gadget that inflates inside the bottle to create an airtight seal upon the surface of the wine. Corti’s invention went through several rounds of positive testing before its even more successful presentation on-air.
The Sharks countered one another with offers as large as $600,000, but Corti decided to keep ownership of his venture. He went on to feature the Wine Balloon on another reality TV show, Invention Hunters on Food Network. With the help of new partners, he rebranded the product as the Air Cork and scaled the company to continuing success.
Back to the Basics
Navigating wine labels can feel complicated and overwhelming, especially for newcomers.
Brice Baillié agrees that you shouldn’t need a Ph.D. to enjoy wine. To bridge the knowledge gap, he founded Obvious Wine.
The company keeps it simple: distinctive and straight–forward labels that provide only relevant information on each wine’s taste and characteristics. Names like “Bright & Crisp” and “Dark & Bold” make it clear what you’re drinking, compared to varietal names like Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet.
When Baillié pitched his idea to the panel, only one Shark saw the company’s potential. A deal was made, but it never closed.
In hindsight, maybe its success should have been obvious. The company has scaled dramatically, with money obtained from crowdfunding and an educational leg on their website to help more people learn to love wine.