When the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control finally clarified its position on online wine sales facilitated by third-party marketers last November, there was speculation that Amazon.com would extend its reach to include wine.
So it’s not entirely surprising that the online retailer is rumored to be giving it a go. A scheme the online retailer scrapped three years ago was more complex: it involved shipping wine through the three tier system and working with a large fulfillment company. Word is the new program will be simpler, more akin to Amazon’s existing marketplace program. Amazon would take the orders with the wineries taking care of the shipping themselves, sources say. Transactions would occur under the individual wineries’ licenses.
The online retailer recently briefed industry representatives in Washington and held a meeting in the Napa/Sonoma area. Wineries were asked to sign non-disclosures, which seems odd given that the program is said to be launching soon - but this is amazon.
It will be interesting to see how popular a new wine marketplace will be with wineries and consumers. Participating wineries will apparently pay a monthly $39 fee, a 15 percent commission, a 15 percent co-op fee and may subsidize some of the shipping.
“I don’t see it being much different than a traditional marketplace offer like Lot 18 and other guys are doing,” one source said. “I don’t see how the math will work favorably unless wineries just want to move product or use it for customer acquisition.”
“It could be a good program in three months – but probably won’t start with a big bang,” said another. “People don’t seem to be that gung ho.”