Amazon abandons wine project

How do you buy your wine? Amazon was sure hoping you would buy it from them, but they pulled the plug on their ambitious (and trial) wine sales program.

A blurb from the Wall Street Journal blog post:

“The wine sales pilot, which the e-commerce giant launched last year, was intended to sell wine from California’s Napa Valley and other U.S. regions.

An Amazon spokesman declined to give details about why the company ended the program.

The end of the program may have been related to financial troubles at partner New Vine Logistics, which had been tapped to handle shipments for Amazon. Over the summer, that company suspended operations amid financial problems, but then later got new investment from Inertia Beverage Group.

Amazon faced an onerous task to comply with a patchwork of state laws governing the direct shipping of wine to consumers. More than 35 states permit some form of direct shipping, but laws often vary. Some states, for instance, restrict how many wine bottles a person can order, or require that consumers pick up wine shipments at a retail outlet.” (read the rest)

They join the laundry list (which includes and who have tried to scratch the surface on the billion-dollar wine buying business. But American laws practically prevent this kind of commerce, at least easily.

But it also begs the question… do you buy wine online? How do you make your wine decisions? I, for one, like being in a wine shop and talking with a person before laying out cash for a new wine and only buy wines online that I’ve personally tasted.




  1. Have enjoyed reading your column over the years, and learned quite a bit. Re: wine purchase decisions, I do buy quite a bit of wine online. I read a variety of wine blogs and subscribe to both Wine Spectator and Food and Wine magazines. I keep up with they NYTimes online wine columns. I am on the e-mail list of numerous online stores. I buy wine based on several criteria, including familiarity with wines from the same region, the vintage, the critics’ ratings, and the price. If I have liked a wine and know the retail price around here (ATL) and get an e-mail from an online store with better pricing including shipping, I’ll jump on some. A recent buy was
    Price is one of my driving criteria. Wines I cellar have an average value around $35, with day-to-day wines in the $10-15 range with an average around $12-13.
    Having multiyear familiarity with the critics’ ratings and descriptors, I have a pretty good feel for whether I will like a wine, and am not afraid to buy some untasted if it carries a particularly high rating versus the price. On the flip side, if the price is very attractive and the description sounds pretty good, and I am familiar with other wines from the region or vintage, I will also buy it, figuring ‘how bad can it be’? Rarely have I been disappointed buying wine online.
    If I read about something interesting that I want to try or buy for the cellar I will often try to locate it on, where I can compare prices and get the best deal.
    I have also developed a feel over the years for the e-mails from the online retailers (Zachys, Sherry-Lehmann, HDH) and can determine fairly well what is a bargain for the quality versus just something that is an “online endcap” that is just something they are trying to move.
    Recently I have subscribed to, a website that gets excess wine from wineries and or distributors and sells it for cheap. Finds have included Mer Soleil Chard for $23 including shipping, a good-quality ’05 reserve Merlot from Sonoma County California for $12 including shipping, and so on.
    One thing about buying wine online– I believe it pays to buy well before you plan to drink it. It seems to me that you need to let wine that has been shipped to you settle down for a month or so before you crack it open to allow it to regain its flavor and nose. Just my opinion on on that last (well, really, on everything I just wrote!)

  2. You are hardcore… and quite possibly my new hero! Very impressive research skills.


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