January 19, 2001, 12:00 AM

Web Wine, Anyone?

Wine.com, Napa, Calif., and
Seagram Chateau & Estate Wines Co., San Mateo, Calif., have joined together to offer what they say is the first wine ever available exclusively via the Internet. Premium wine producer Bodega San Telmo of Argentina will provide 3,000 cases from a total of 18,000 cases produced for the U.S. for the Internet introduction. The Bodega San Telmo line includes Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, all from the Mendoza region. These wines, with the exception of the Chardonnay, will be available at www.wine.com beginning mid-February 2000, they say. The Chardonnay will follow later in the year. Each wine in the Bodega San Telmo line will sell for $9.99 per bottle.

"The Internet gives us immediate and direct access to very motivated consumers who are interested in premium fine wines," says Sam Bronfman II, president of Seagram Chateau & Estate Wines Com. He says the firm will use the relationship with online wine retailer wine.com "to build demand for and interest in San Telmo before we introduce these wines into our traditional three-tiered distribution system."

"Up until now distributors have had to shoulder the burden of building a new brand when it is introduced,'' says wine.com's Peter Granoff, senior vice president and chief merchant. "But through the Internet, we can build demand for new brands as they become available, then when the demand exists, release them through traditional distribution networks. In this manner the product is being pulled by demand instead of being pushed by distributors."

Founded in 1994 as VirtualVineyards.com, wine.com claims to be the first wine merchant on the Web. The company's portal site offers a selection of domestic and international wines and wine-related gifts and accessories to customers worldwide.

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