Winebits 494: Wine Spectator, Warren Buffet, song royalties

warren buffetThis week’s wine news: A compliment for the Wine Spectator, plus Warren Buffet takes on three-tier and more wineries can legally play music

Well done, Dr. Vinny: The Wine Spectator gets a lot of well-deserved abuse in this space, but when the magazine does something right, that should be mentioned, too. In its Dr. Vinny wine advice column, the doctor told a reader to stop being such a wine snob: “Most wines sold here are on the sweet and simple side and cost less than $10 – and I think that’s OK. I want wine to be accessible and part of our culture. I love that I can turn on the television and regularly see characters holding a glass of wine. As much as I’d like to share my passion with everyone I know, I don’t feel a need to dictate style. There are styles to appeal to every palate. It would be boring if we all had the same thing in our glass.” Dr. Vinny, that’s a 100-point answer.

Taking on three-tier: Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway holding company owns a Texas food distributor, and the distributor wants to sell alcohol in Texas. To do so, it needs a state wholesalers license, but the state doesn’t want to give it one. Hence, legal wrangling and perhaps a lawsuit. The story describing all this, written by long-time journalist Liza Zimmerman, does a good job explaining a very complicated subject, though I wish she had been a little more even-handed in assessing the need for three-tier. Still, the point is well taken: If even Buffet, long regarded as one of the great capitalists and entrepreneurs in the history of the world, thinks three-tier is obsolete, why are we still messing with it?

Solving the royalty problem: Anyone who has heard recorded or live music at a winery, and especially a small winery, may have been party to a copyright law violation. That’s because many wineries were playing music without paying royalties. This is another controversial and complicated topic that has been going on for years; it’s enough for us to note that the companies that collect royalties for musicians are notorious for their diligence and that many of the wineries couldn’t afford to pay the royalties even if they knew about them. Finally, though, a compromise, brokered by the Wine America trade group, which should solve the problem – affordable royalties. I mention this because music, live and recorded, is key to the survival of many local and regional producers, and anything that helps Drink Local is welcome.

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