Amazon.com uncorks a service for oenophiles

By Alex Silady

A box from Amazon.com awaits retrieval; as of last week it may well be full of a nice chianti.

Internet retail giant Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) bases its business model on sheer, numerical diversity: It tries to sell just about anything anyone might need or want while sitting at their computer desks. In fact, it seems as though more or less the only thing it doesn’t carry is booze, due to the dodgy proposition of shipping such items across the world.

But now it seems Amazon is breaching that last frontier: On November 8, the company launched Amazon Wine (amazon.com/wine), which at press time claims to offer more than a thousand wines from United States vineyards.

The move comes in time for the holiday shopping season, a time when millions of Americans may want to bring a bottle of wine to Christmas dinner at a friend’s house, gift some to a loved one, or stock up on bubbly for New Year’s Eve. According to marketwatch.com, Amazon has had its best per-year performances for each of the past five years in the last quarter of the year, a fact attributable to holiday shopping in general.

Amazon user Mara Mastersen, 25, of Manhattan, said she was reticent about buying her wine from the same site she buys books and DVDs from, but admitted she could see the appeal.

“For me, the only way I can know I want to buy a bottle of wine is if I taste it, and that’s obviously impossible online without some matter replicators, Star Trek-style,” Mastersen said. “But I have friends with favorite winemakers that would probably use [the site] to stock up.”

Amazon Wine currently charges different shipping rates than the main site – $9.99 for up to six bottles – and is not eligible for Amazon Prime or other free shipping; the company is betting that this won’t alienate its frequent users who are used to such perks. At press time Amazon is shipping wine to California, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming and the District of Columbia, and intends to add more states to this list.

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