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Amazon To Start Selling Wine, But Not Everywhere

By Anthony Todd in Food on Nov 9, 2012 8:00PM

2012_11_9_Wine.png You may now buy wine on on Amazon while shopping for the latest Twilight novel and picking up a new DVD. Amazon announced Thursday that they would begin selling wine to customers in 12 states and the District of Columbia, and the store is up and running.

Amazon won't be stocking the wines themselves, or even distributing them. As the L.A. Times explained, Amazon will be acting more like an agent for individual wineries.

Unlike other online wine sellers, Amazon will merely serve as the middleman for wineries to sell their products; the company won't be storing wines in its massive distribution centers or shipping the bottles directly. Because the wines will be shipped from individual wineries, consumers won't be able to combine bottles from different labels to save on delivery costs. Amazon Prime, the company's $79-a-year program that gives members free two-day shipping, isn't available for wine purchases, a company spokeswoman said.

The shipping fee will be $9.99 for up to six bottles.

Wine sales online have never been particularly high—only about 2 percent of wine is sold on the internet. This makes sense, since many of us want to taste wine before we buy it at our local wine store. If you want to pick up a bottle of wine for dinner on your way home from work, you aren't going to order it online. So this will likely appeal only to the limited section of the population that is willing to buy relatively large amounts of wine and store it at home.

The new service also presents some interesting legal issues that may directly affect consumers. The Supreme Court's 2005 decision in Granholm v. Heald ruled that laws in Michigan and New York permitting the direct sale and shipping of wine produced in state to customers while prohibiting out-of-state wineries from doing the same were violations of the 21st Amendment to the Constitution. Since then many states, including Illinois, have passed legislation that, depending on one's view, brings them in compliance with Granholm or further violates it. (This handy chart from the Wine Institute will give you a primer of where your state stands on wine shipping reciprocity.)

If you look around on the wine section of the website, whenever you pick a different wine to add to your shopping cart, there is a different list of states that the wine can be shipped to. Frankly, it's somewhat maddening—we looked for a few wines that we know we like and, while the prices are good, they can't be shipped to us in Illinois. Will consumers be willing to jump through these hoops? Amazon clearly thinks so, and plans to extend sales to other states soon.

Wine is currently being sold in California, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming and the District of Columbia.

Chuck Sudo contributed to this post.