Amazon suspends wine sales effort

Senior account manager at the online retailer notifies winery partners via e-mail that it has corked the plan.

Amazon.com is apparently shelving its planned effort to sell wine online.

A little more than a year after word of the effort trickled out , a senior Amazon account manager told wineries about the decision to cork it in an e-mail last week.

"As you know, we were excited to work with you to build the AmazonWine business," Dini Rao said in an e-mail first reported by WineBusiness.com. "For that reason, this was a very tough choice for us. Many of you took the time and leap of faith to really support us."

Amazon representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Word of the effort leaked out in September 2008 when a nonprofit vintner group announced it had partnered with Amazon to drum up interest from its members to sell wine through the retail giant. However, its fulfillment partner New Vine Logistics briefly suspended operations this summer before securing additional financing from Inertia Beverage Group.

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. But state laws governing direct wine shipping vary greatly, creating an onerous task in managing compliance.

Amazon had 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.

 

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