Drinking Wine Isn’t Just For the Wealthy

Wine began as a drink strictly for monarchies and the noble class, which eventually turned into a beverage for only the most special occasions. In the modern era it is becoming more and more acceptable to drink wine for no special reason. It is becoming a beverage for the masses that we drink with our dinner.


What is Two Buck Chuck?

The most iconic symbol of the dramatic change in the image of wine has been Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw Wines or what is known to the American public as Two Buck Chuck. This is a wine so named because:

  1. It’s a wine from someone named Charles (Chuck), and
  2. In its home state of California it costs $2 (2 bucks)In other states it may be called Three or Four Buck Chuck. However, the wine is still very affordable.

Two Buck Chuck caused nothing less than a hurricane when it hit the store shelves in 2002. Wine critics called it “undrinkable” and the competition accused it of being of lesser quality, but the American consumer did the real talking by purchasing more than 800 million bottles over the last 14 years. In fact, it is one of Trader Joe’s best-selling products EVER!

The Story Behind Two Buck Chuck

The original Charles Shaw Winery was located in Napa Valley, California. The winery went bankrupt and sold the name to Bronco Wine Company in the 1990s. The head of Bronco Wine Company is none other than Fred Franzia of the Franzia Brothers, whose family brought forth another revolutionary, but highly criticized wine idea — “wine in a box.”


Praise for Two Buck Chuck: A “Blue Collar” Wine

While the wine has been highly criticized by many, there is also praise for the product. Today’s Wine critic Edward Deitch reviewed it saying it is a “blue-collar wine masquerading as white and red. And yet, if it helps people discover wine, or helps satisfy a craving for savings that exists somewhere in all of us, then I’ll raise my glass to it, at least half way.”

The Thrillist reviewed it by bringing in a professional Sommelier and a casual wine drinker for their opinions.

Here are their opinions on the Chardonnay:

Sommelier: “It’s a very pale, going on green color. I get lavender. Like, soapy lavender. It reminds me of my dad’s bathtub. This is pretty damn palatable. There’s acid, there’s fruit, and there some semblance of a body to it. There’s certainly an element of fake oak, in the best possible way. It’s as if somebody took a whole bunch of the wood chips from when playgrounds were badass.” Score: “8.”

Girlfriend: “I know exactly what this smells like. A hippie. Not the kind of hippie that camps out at Phish concerts, the kind who gets acupuncture and wears crystals. Not the patchouli thing. It just smells like nature, I guess. This is the Jessica Simpson of wines. A little trashy, but you wanna like it.” Score: “This is a 7 for me.”

Two Buck Chuck has also won some awards:

  • Double gold at 28th Annual Eastern Wine Competition for its 2002 Shiraz (beating 2,300 other wines)
  • Double gold at the California Commercial Wine Competition in 2007 for its 2005 Chardonnay.


Why Is Two Buck Chuck So Cheap?

According to George M. Taber’s book “A Toast to Bargain Wines: How Innovators, Iconoclasts and Winemaking Revolutionaries Are Changing the Way the World Drinks” there are 5 reasons the wine can sell cheaper than other wines on the market:

  1. Cheap real estate costs: The company’s vineyards are located in San Joaquin Valley which has cheaper land than Sonoma or Napa Valley. It is cheaper because San Joaquin is slightly hotter and in grape-growing and winemaking even the slightest difference in temperature can make a big difference. The grapes will grow, but the heat can cause them to over-ripen making them very sweet and of lesser quality.
  2. Use of oak chips to ferment wine instead of the more expensive oak barrels.
  3. Use of cheap forms of natural cork instead of real cork. Due to its scarcity real cork has become expensive, so by using an alternative costs are cut.
  4. Mass production and automation: On the one hand wine made in bigger quantities (they make around 90 million gallons per year) reduces exclusivity which makes it cheaper and increases quality by decreasing the wines’ exposure to oxygen and air. On the other hand all harvesting, bottling etc… is done using machines which keeps labor costs low, but also decreases the quality of the wine because bad grapes are not weeded out and can end up in the wine.
  5. Reduced shipping costs: Bronco has pioneered new lightweight bottles and cheaper cartons which bring down their shipping costs. Lighter loads means cheaper shipping or shipping more wines for the same price. The difference between it’s previous white cartons and current brown cartons is only a few pennies, but as all economists and thrifty people know “a penny saved is a penny earned” both for the company and the consumer which, in this economy, is a huge advantage.


Should You Drink Two Buck Chuck?

There’s a time and place for Cheap & Cheerful wine. Ultimately the opinion that matters is yours. It’s as simple as, if you are happy drinking $2 wine then do it!


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