uvine today launched the stock exchange for wine, heralding a new era for the trading of wines between buyers and sellers.

Key highlights of uvine:

    -- stock exchange for wine, open to everyone
    -- instant access to prestigious wines
    -- recruitment of International Head of Wine from Christie's to be Chairman
    -- transparent market prices
    -- quality and provenance guaranteed
    -- 3.5% exchange fee either side - the lowest in the world (as at May 2000)
    -- immediate execution of wine portfolio decisions
    -- anonymous and secure trading
    -- guaranteed settlement
    -- storage and insurance in secure, controlled conditions

uvine has developed a stock market for wine, incorporating a simple bid and offer system. This allows people to trade fine wines as easily, securely and anonymously as they do stocks and shares. It is a fundamentally new and different concept which provides a completely neutral trading forum. All traders of fine wine will benefit from this mechanism whose purpose is to aggregate a fragmented market.

The management team of uvine combines the best of wine and new media experience. The team is led by Chairman, Christopher S Burr, M.W., one of the world's leading authorities on wine, who, until April 2000 was International Head of Wine at Christie's overseeing sales in London, New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo and other world-wide centres.

Andrew Halstead, Chief Executive Officer, is a successful wine and software entrepreneur who has set up a number of private companies including Vermilion, the ground-breaking wine financing company. Richard Laughton is Managing Director, who, until recently, was online business development manager for United News & Media, examining investment opportunities in the new media space and advising group companies on online strategy.

David Gower, the international cricketer and media personality has also joined uvine as Head of External Affairs and provides a unique combination of media contacts, good commercial experience and a love of wine.

Financing for uvine includes a number of backers, the major investor being the multi-billion dollar US fund, Moore Capital.

The global wine market is estimated to be worth some 90 billion pounds sterling, of which the market for internationally traded fine wines is worth some 1 billion pounds. Wines with a 'secondary' market or collectible potential are generally released at a minimum of 15 - 20 pounds per bottle. In terms of the investment potential of wine, an investment in first growth 1982 claret would now represent a growth in excess of 1000%. Average growth in the top 600 regularly traded wines since 1995 has been over 300%.

As part of the uvine trading service:

    1. uvine arranges all key logistics of transport and storage, from where the company inspects, authenticates and insures the wine.
    2. uvine guarantees that only wines of the highest quality and provenance will be accepted for trade.
    3. the trader has unrivalled access to the most prestigious wines in the world, on a totally anonymous and secure basis.
    4. uvine has developed a customised settlement system, triggered on the successful completion of a transaction, which ensures automated dealing with all aspects from invoicing through to transportation.

The market for trading fine wines has to date been dominated by merchants, brokers and auction houses. Merchants and brokers typically charge 10-15% on pure brokered deals and 25-30% if they hold the stock themselves. Auction houses charge up to 10% on the seller's side plus 10-15% on the buyer's side, with online operators such as winebid.com charging 12.5% either side of the transaction. uvine will charge a flat 3.5% on either side, representing the lowest trading commissions in the world, both offline and online.

There is some nervousness about buying fine wine over the internet. The incidence of fraud with the most valuable collectible bottles, like Petrus and Domaine de la Romanee Conti is well documented, although small. More significantly, provenance and the condition of wine during storage and handling is the major concern for any serious merchant or collector. uvine guarantees the condition of any wines traded on the site, with a full refund if the wine is proven to be below the acceptable standard for that vintage.

The uvine site is available for registration with immediate effect, and will go live with trading in May 2000.

Commenting on the launch, Christopher Burr, Chairman of uvine said:

"It is right that uvine should start its stock exchange for wine in London, the hub of fine wine trading for the world. A stock exchange for wine will revolutionise the way wine is traded. I believe that the majority of fine wine will be traded this way in the future -- leaving the traditional auction houses to handle individual bottles and small batches of rare or esoteric wines. Based on the knowledge and experience that I have gained throughout my career, I believe that uvine will provide an invaluable service to the wine industry."

Andrew Halstead, Chief Executive, added:

"Our approach has been essentially to ask: How do we build a profitable business from a great idea? Undoubtedly, without the internet, this business could not possibly have been built. However, we have steered clear of a reliance on nebulous future revenue streams and hype that has characterised a number of other new businesses using this channel. By focussing on the fundamentals -- a first class team, excellent customer service, robust business processes -- we are determined to establish uvine as the only stock exchange for wine."

Richard Laughton, Managing Director commented:

"The internet provides a unique ability to bring buyers and sellers directly in touch. Wine is the ideal commodity for trading online. Our strong belief is that we will significantly increase turnover in this market bringing the benefits of transparent prices and instant execution to all industry players."

Management Biographies

Christopher S Burr, M.W., joined uvine from Christie's where he was International Head of the Wine Department. During his time there he oversaw sales in London, New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo and other global sales centres. Previous roles include European Director for Bass Brewers, and Managing Director of both Domaine Drouhin & Associates and following its merger with Bollinger owned subsidiary, Mentzendorff. Christopher Burr passed his Master of Wine examination in 1995, winning prizes for his papers on Viticulture.

Andrew Halstead has considerable experience of the wine trade including founding Vermilion, a fine wine investment company that he subsequently sold to a member of the Whitbread family. Prior to that Andrew was involved with a number of start-up and entrepreneurial situations in the software and property industries.

Richard Laughton was previously online business development manager for United News & Media, which saw him examining new media investment opportunities and advising group companies on online strategy. Prior to that he worked at McKinsey and BZW.