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The New York Times reports that “a new start-up,, is betting that the time for online wine has finally arrived.”

According to the story, the website has a number of oenophile-friendly features: “Winemakers can post their tasting notes and tips for tourists who want to visit their vineyards. Wine drinkers can buy, rate, review and discuss wine. A blog offers recipes with wine pairings and interviews with winemakers, and a wine encyclopedia defines terms from ‘abboccato’ to ‘zinfandel’.”

And, there is a “buy local” component to the site as well: “Three-quarters of the 435 wineries that sell on the site are small vineyards that produce fewer than 1,000 cases of wine each year and sell in few or no stores. These winemakers don’t have other ways to reach customers beyond those that visit their tasting rooms and don’t always have the resources to set up their own e-commerce sites…” One of the differential advantages that hopes to bring to the space is a breadth of product from previously little-known sources.

The Times says that “the site is free for customers and vintners. When a winery sells a bottle of wine through the site, processes the payment and the wineries are responsible for shipping. Shipping is $15 for one to three bottles and $25 for a case. Wineries set the prices for the wine, which range from $5 to $1,000 a bottle. keeps 10 percent of that and returns 90 percent to the winemaker.”

While selling wine online has its challenges – including complicated state laws that can make shipping difficult and the need to make sure that buyers are of legal drinking age – isn’t exactly alone in the space, and between 10-20 percent of all wine sales in the US are via the Internet, according to one marketing group. There have been reports that plans to get into the wine business, though it hasn’t happened just yet.

KC's View:
Wine is one of those great aspirational segments in which retailers can use product and education to build sales and interest. And this strikes me as an interesting idea…if only because it exposes people to a lot of products they might not have seen before.