Amazon.com to uncork wine sales

Napa vintners group that represents 315 wineries says it is collaborating with the Web retailer to launch wine sales on the site by as early as this month.

Amazon.com customers will be able to buy wine through the e-tailer's Web site as early as this month, a spokesman for the Napa Valley Vintners Association said Wednesday.

Amazon has been working with the nonprofit group, which represents 315 vintners in the Napa Valley, to arrange workshops with wine producers that might be interested in selling wine through the retail giant, said Terry Hall, the group's communications director.

"We have set up a few get-to-know-you meetings with wineries, and the wineries will make their own decisions on what fits best with their business plans," Hall said, who added that his St. Helena, Calif.-based group has been collaborating with Amazon on the enterprise since early this year.

"It should be live in the next few weeks," Hall said, adding that Amazon was "really looking to be the go-to Web site for wine sales."

An Amazon representative declined to comment for this report, so it is unknown if each winery would have a separate online storefront, or whether they would be administered through a single store.

Rumors began circulating on the Internet in March that Amazon was gearing up to sell wine through its grocery section when a job opening for a senior wine buyer at the online retailer appeared on a jobs site.

Amazon has dabbled in the wine business before, investing $30 million for a 45 percent share in Wineshopper.com in 1999, a start-up that was acquired by Wine.com in 2000 before going through a series of layoffs. Wine.com has a storefront on Amazon, through which it sells gourmet food baskets but not wine.

Since the Supreme Court ruled in May 2005 that states must grant the same shipping rights to out-of-state and in-state wineries, winery-to-consumer shipping has become legal in 35 states, according to wine advocacy group Free the Grapes. There are now more than 5,000 wineries in the United States, at least one in each state.

 

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