Reality TV is all the rage these days but I rarely watch this genre outside of a few cooking competition shows like Top Chef or Masterchef. But I have been hooked this year by ABC’s ‘Shark Tank’. The show’s premise is simple; entrepreneurs pitch their products to a panel of well known investors (‘sharks’) such as Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary, Daymond John, and Lori Greiner. Sometimes the entrepreneurs fall flat, other times they walk away after some interest, but most times they arrive at some sort of deal trading investment for equity in their company.
Wine products have surprisingly been featured a couple times this season but the most interesting was an invention called ‘Wine Balloon’ (later changed to ‘Air Cork‘) that preserves wine with a patented balloon system. Inventor Eric Corti was clearly nervous pitching the panel of sharks but did well enough to garner two offers from Kevin O’Leary and the combined team of Mark Cuban and QVC host Lori Greiner. It was clear that Corti didn’t like the strings attached to O’Leary’s offer to license the invention to a third party for marketing but was surprised when Greiner offered $500,000 for the entire company. Cuban joined the offer which grew to $600,000 but demanded an immediate response. Corti didn’t act fast enough but accepted their final offer of $400,000 for his invention. At the time of the show I thought Corti made the wrong choice as $200,000 of value had been taken off the table in under 2 minutes. And Wine Balloon seemed like a novel idea that might see wide distribution in winery tasting rooms and wine stores (although the reviews on Amazon currently are not encouraging).
So it was good to see an update to this story last week at Wines & Vines. After due diligence, Corti and his partner walked away from the deal and worked on building their business. And it appears to have worked with sales reported at 15,000 units a month. Using the cost of goods disclosed during the show of $6.50 that makes over $260,000 of gross profit a month or $3.1 million annually. It’s good to see an entrepreneur stand his ground and make something work as it was clear during the show that Corti really believed in his invention.
If you want to see the episode of Shark Tank it is available to Hulu Plus subscribers here (season 3, episode 4). Corti’s pitch starts the second dot from the end on the timeline.
Preserving an open bottle of wine is one of those things wine lovers don’t talk a lot about. For many of us a bottle is not open long enough for the exposure to air to spoil the wine. But there are those times when you open a special bottle or, in my case, 4 or 5 bottles for a tasting when preservation becomes a necessity. Over the years I have tried a lot of different approaches to preserving open bottles for longer than a day or two with mixed results. After swearing by Vac-u-vin and refrigerator storage for years I most recently have used Private Preserve to displace the air and preserve open wine bottles for 2 or 3 days before oxidation is apparent. A new product called Wine Shield claims to preserve open wines up to 5 days which I put to the test with 2 red wines.
The idea of Wine Shield is so simple I’m surprised it wasn’t invented a long time ago. Essentially it’s a round disk made from food grade plastic with a decorative grape design stamped into the middle that doubles as its mechanism to assure the disk floats on the top of the wine. An obvious and brilliant idea to protect the wine from oxidation. And my testing confirms the claim of protecting wine for a full 5 days before the effects of oxidation can be detected. In fact, I got 6 days from a robust Napa Valley Cabernet that tasted as fresh as the day I opened the bottle on day 6.
The only flaw I can see with Wine Shield is how you put the disk into the bottle is an acquired skill. You can see how this works about 17 seconds into the Wine Shield promotional video embedded below and it is a lot more difficult in practice than it looks.
I will definitely be ordering more Wine Shield disks to have on hand for special bottles but will continue to use Private Preserve for most of my wine preservation needs since I rarely keep an open bottle more than a couple days and using gas is still quite a bit less expensive per bottle than Wine Shield. But for many wine lovers who only occasionally drink wine or restaurants who don’t have an expensive gas system already something like Wine Shield is a no brainer. If it was closer in price to gas, I would use Wine Shield everyday. But I will be using it the next time I open 5 or 6 bottles for a Twitter tasting.
Update December 18, 2011: In preparing my gift round up post I noticed Wine Shield had significantly lowered their prices to be much more competitive with gas preservation solutions so I have changed the end of my review and have updated the Amazon affiliate links.
Disclosure: The Wine Shield folks sent me a 3-pack for review.