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3/7/2008
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Amazon Seeks Wine Buyer

The retailer may be getting into online wine sales as the position is for Amazon.com's specialty foods group.

Amazon.com has posted a want ad for a senior wine buyer, an indication that the online retailer may enter the difficult business of selling wine over the Web.

The position is for Amazon.com's specialty foods group, which is a part of the company's consumables division. The latter division is responsible for non-perishable foods sold on the site, as well as Amazon.com's pilot local grocery delivery service.

The senior buyer would be responsible for acquiring a "massive new product selection," a job posting on the site said. Other responsibilities include sourcing leads and calling on vendors.

"Buyers must demonstrate a deep and broad experience with the wine segment, as well as demonstrated ability in buying," the ad said.

Amazon.com was not immediately available for comment Friday, but if the retailer is planning to sell wine over the Web, then it will have to clear a number of hurdles, not least of which are the many state and federal regulations.

Until the U.S. Supreme Court relaxed restrictions in a 2005 ruling, selling wine online was nearly impossible. Under the pre-ruling system, consumers couldn't buy wine directly from out-of-state wineries or retailers. Instead, wineries could only sell to state-licensed wholesalers, who could only sell to state-licensed stores.

Today, about 34 states allow consumers to order direct from out-of-state wineries, which makes online sales possible. Unfortunately the rules for business are so onerous that the resulting price for the wine is oftentimes higher than what's offered in local stores.

Wine.com is among the largest online wine sellers today. The retailer sells food gift baskets on Amazon.com, but not wine.

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