RealTime IT News

Wine.Com Turns Up e-Vintage Heat

About this time of the year, the cafes in Vienna and across the rest of Austria start serving a hot mulled red wine they call glühwein, which cuts through the chill and warms the insides in ways coffee only dreams about.

The online wine competition is heating up as well with Wine.Com (formerly Virtual Vineyards) raising another $50 million on Wednesday, bringing its total capital raised to just over $100 million ($80 million of that in the past six months) -- something their competition can only dream about and more than twice as much as their nearest competitor, WineShopper.com which has raised $46 million but has not yet launched its operation.

VC Watch previously described the vino-grudge match on July 6 (Wineshopper.Com) and July 8 (Wine.Com).

Wine.Com's latest $50 million round was led by TH Lee.Putnam Internet Partners who ponied up $20 million in the deal. Others writing checks for this latest round include New Millennium Partners, Value Vision, MediaOne Ventures (a division of MediaOne Group), J. & W. Seligman, Inroads Capital and Applied Technology Ventures.

With a worldwide gut of wine beginning to hit the markets and another bountiful wine harvest in California, which produces more than 90 percent of all U.S. wine, retail wine prices have begun to drop, negatively impacting winery and vineyard margins. Because of this, investments in retail sales operations such as Wine.Com or Wineshopper.com may turn out to be far smarter in the next several years than those in wineries and vineyards.

But the struggle to ship legally to all wine consumers in the United States should sober up investors in direct shippers and provide a level of caution until the situation stabilizes. The intransigent middle tier of the alcoholic beverage distribution system -- wholesalers and distributors -- continue to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars into political pockets at the state and federal levels, and as a result wield enormous influence that so far has blunted direct shipping growth and kept prices high and limited selection for consumers. Both Wine.Com and WineShopper.Com claim they have answers to that problem.

UPDATE: iShip.com, Daily Drill, NeoForma

iShip.Com, which we wrote about in June was acquired on October 25 by stamps.com in a stock deal worth about $305 million on the date of announcement. The acquisition establishes stamps.com as the only online service (so far) that will be able to offer small business, consumer and corporate enterprise customers a single source for all their mailing and shipping needs.

The Daily Drill, profiledon October 4, has received an additional $1.3 million in funding from New Horizons Venture Capital.

NeoForma, profiled on June 25, nailed down $70.5 million round in early November from a group that included Dell Computer (DELL), GE Equity, Superior Consultant (SUPC), SAP America (SAP), Amerindo Investment Advisors, Divine interVentuees, Owens & Minor (OMI), Physician Sales and Services (PSSI), VerticalNet (VERT), Bowman Capital Management and Venrock Associates.

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