Bordeaux négociant Millésima, in partnership with Moet Hennessy and retailer Philippe Thomas, has bought up wineandco.com, the French internet wine retailer, for an undisclosed sum.

The site, which has been thoroughly revised and redesigned, will be relaunched next Tuesday. And, in addition to French buyers, the new, trilingual wineandco.com will target English and German consumers.

The partners have already sunk €6 million (£4 million) into the company, investing in new stock and training staff. The company’s initial offering will focus heavily on France: 25-30 per cent Bordeaux, 20 per cent Champagne, 15 per cent Burgundy and 15 per cent from the remaining French appellations.

Although there are a number of internet retailers chasing the same market, managing director Philippe Thomas is convinced that wineandco.com’s ability to offer some of the world’s most sought-after wines and its stock of unusual-sized bottles will attract potential clients. As an investor, the company’s money is my money and I’m not interested in taking unnecessary risks. We aim to be in profit within the next two or three years,’ he says.

‘You can buy just one bottle on our site, or a mixed case. And, if I wanted to be provocative, I might say that while many don’t trust the internet, they trust the internet plus telephone, and our site is backed by a trilingual call centre whose staff can advise visitors about the wines.’

With backers like Moet Henessey and Millésima, wineandco.com might be open to charges that some of the wines on the site might be better represented than others. ‘When you go to the Champagne pages, yes, the Moet Henessey brands are right up at the top,’ says Thomas, ‘but we have added a short sentence to each tasting note saying that these wines are owned by Moet Hennessey, a wineandco.com shareholder. We have a policy of full disclosure of business interests on the site.’

Written by Natasha Hughes22 March 2002