South Africa's most successful wine mail order business, which recently launched its own website, believes that people only selling wine on the internet will not have much to shout about for quite some time.

Colin Collard, MD of the Wine-of-the-Month Club, which has a client base of 25,000 regulars, said it was still "early days" for the new medium - and that while the internet would ultimately influence buying patterns - wine sellers should be wary of placing too much hope on this new selling vehicle right now.

He cited the recent folding of the US-based Virtual Vineyards, which earlier this year re-launched itself as www.wine.com, then folded last month. "They reputedly invested $US50m in developing and marketing the site during 1999 and 2000.

"On the local front www wineways.co.za, which spent R9m building an advanced e-commerce enabled website, liquidated in March.

"We will be happy if we attract an additional 8-10% worth of sales through selling on-line. At the end of the day we expect our website to indirectly bolster business, but to sell purely on the internet at this stage is a pipe dream," he said.

He said the main internet wine business was still being done business-to-business and not to the consumer. He cited research in the US which showed that only 0.7% of households in that country actually purchased wine on-line and that an insignificant 11,000 new households would join this trend this year, considering the size of the country.

The same applied in the UK where he said a recent survey showed that only 2% of UK internet users planned to buy wine over the internet. "That's a pretty insignificant percentage," he said.