January 19, 2001, 12:00 AM

An Expensive Vintage

Don Davis

Editor in Chief

Online wine portal Wine.com, formerly VirtualVineyard.com, has completed a round of financing in which it raised more than $50 million from a group led by TH Lee.Putnam Internet Partners, which kicked in $20 million. The funds will be used for wine.com's global expansion and to expand the site's content through strategic acquisitions and partnerships, says the Palo Alto, Calif.-based e-commerce firm.

Other participants in this funding round, which Wine.com says represents the largest amount ever raised for an online wine retailer, include New Millennium Partners, Value Vision, MediaOne Ventures, J. & W. Seligman, Inroads Capital and Applied Technology.

Completion of this round means that wine.com has now raised a total of more than $80 million in the last six months, it says. In the last year, Wine.com has established a network of wholesalers and retailers that allow it to ship wine to most U.S. markets, as well as to key markets in Europe, Asia and South America, says the company. This allows it to extend the marketing and distribution reach of the wineries it represents on the site.

Wine.com also launched its offline branding campaign in April, with advertising in leading national publications including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and a number of major local dailies. The campaign was expanded in September to include radio and TV advertising in a number of major markets across the country. The company says it will continue to brand itself on the Web through strategic partnerships and online advertising.

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