Best Two-Buck Chuck Wines at Trader Joe’s

Unless you live on a yacht and run in the same circles as Scrooge McDuck, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the bargain wines affectionately known as “Two-Buck Chuck”.

In 2002, Trader Joe’s debuted a store brand of wines under the label Charles Shaw, priced at $1.99 per bottle. Since then, the discount-hipster grocery chain has sold more than 800 million bottles of the value vino in the U.S. and the price hovers closer to $4 in some regions.*

Two-Buck Chuck is certainly popular, but is it any good? Charles Shaw has won some legitimate awards in the past, and some wine-tasters couldn’t tell it apart from expensive wines in blind taste tests. On the other hand, many sommeliers say it’s pretty darn bad, and you’ll probably get some side-eye if you bring a bottle to a dinner party.

But sometimes you just need a bottle of wine that’s cheap and drinkable.

To save you time and regrets next time you find yourself in the wine aisle of Trader Joe’s with an anemic bank account, below are reviews and a ranking of the best and worst Two-Buck Chuck wines.**

THE BEST 

Pinot grigio

Light, clean and lemony, the taste of the pinot grigio can best be described as a “generic white wine”, which is a good thing here. The flavor is fruity but fairly neutral, and you could definitely serve this to party guests without anyone being the wiser, if that’s your thing. Easily the best white of the Two-Buck Chuck, and in close first place for the best of the bunch.

Cabernet sauvignon

Extremely sweet and fruity, this tasted a bit like cherry pie filling, in a good way. It’s not as heavy and rich as true cabernet lovers might hope for, but it’s tasty. I’d hesitate to serve this to party guests, but if you just want something to drink with dinner with family, you could do worse for a few bucks. While I was checking out, I also learned from our cashier* that our local Trader Joe’s had a blind wine tasting, and the Two-Buck Chuck won best Cabernet in the store.

White zinfandel 

There’s no other way to describe the taste of the Two-Buck Chuck white zinfandel as anything but  strawberry Jolly Ranchers. And it’s strong — almost like a flat strawberry wine cooler. If that doesn’t bother you, and you’re a fan of white zinfandel in general, than you’ll almost certainly enjoy this. It’s the perfect wine to have on hand for a summer barbecue after the good stuff has run out.

THE MEH

Merlot

As a merlot, this is a failure. As a generic dry red table wine, it’s not terrible. The first sip is spicy and peppery, with faint citrus notes. But the burning, cheap-wine aftertaste is definitely there. Only purchase this if you’re resigned to buying a Two-Buck Chuck red and you absolutely can’t stand an overly-sweet cabernet for some reason.

Sauvignon blanc

I’m not saying this is good wine. It’s not. But I’m grading these on a curve, and for $3, it could be worse. There is a strong earthy, pungent smell after uncorking, and not in a good way. But once you get past the funky odor, the taste is just blandly acidic. There is no reason to buy this instead of the pinot grigio, but if your local store is out of stock, this one probably won’t make you gag.

THE WORST

Chardonnay

The first sip of this was okay. It was mild, buttery and a little bit oaky, just a run-of-the-mill cheap Chardonnay — and then BAM! It actually burned my throat going down. This is way too harsh and acidic to be drinkable. This tastes like Chardonnay-flavored nail polish remover and is a really, really bad wine in general. Do not buy this if you value your esophageal lining.

Shiraz

Perhaps as an alternative fuel or a drain cleaner, this would be useful, but as a beverage for human consumption, the Two-Buck Chuck Shiraz is an utter disaster. This is a harsh, bitter wine that tastes nothing like Shiraz and barely like wine — it has no flavor other than “alcohol”. It was so unpleasant that I couldn’t stand to take more than a few sips, and had to rinse my mouth out afterward. This was easily the worst of the Two-Buck Chucks and one of the worst wines I’ve ever personally tasted. The only circumstances under which you should ever buy this wine would be to give as a gift to someone you detest, or you are an employee of Guantanamo Bay. 

OTHER NOTES

I had an unusually difficult time opening the bottles. The corks kept breaking off or crumbling, and it turns out there is a reason for this other than my lack of skill/upper body strength. Rather than just use a plastic cork, like most bargain wines, Two-Buck Chuck uses one of the cheapest forms of natural cork, which is essentially just a bunch of cork pieces glued together. Just something to keep in mind if you’re prone to cork destruction/embarrassing displays of physical inadequacy.

*In Illinois, Charles Shaw Wines are $2.99 per bottle. So it’s more like Three-Buck Chuck.

**Note: All wines were purchased at a Trader Joe’s location on the north side of Chicago. Shout-out to cashier Danny for reserving judgment on this purchase during check-out. All bottles were 2014 vintage except for the white zinfandel, which was 2013. I tried the seven main varietals, but skipped the seasonal/regional varietals like the Beaujolais Noveau. 

Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey

Knappogue Castle 12-year-old single malt Irish whiskey.

Summer is still upon us, so I don’t often feel like sitting down to sip a nice, warming glass of whiskey. But one recent night, after a long walk with my dog, it just seemed like the thing to do. So I went to my liquor cabinet and there it was: Knappogue Castle 12-year-old single malt Irish […]

Continue reading...

Temperance Beer Company’s Greenwood Beach Ale

Image courtesy of Binnys.

Friend of Metasip Bill Mayeroff returns with a review of a beer brewed in Evanston, Illinois, USA. I like my beer to taste like beer. Sometimes I want hoppy, sometimes I want malty, sometimes I want bitter. But no matter what sort of beer characteristic I’m craving, I still want it to taste like beer. […]

Continue reading...

After Three Sips of This Beer, I Read the Label…and What I Found Shocked Me!

Boot Tread Amber Ale

Another beverage knock-off from our friends at Aldi. But this one… We’re back with another review of another beer – but we’re also having a little fun with this fact: Writing ridiculous headlines that ask people to click on a post can only work if you (1) have something interesting to say and (b) use […]

Continue reading...

Quick Take: DrinkersBox

DrinkersBox

As we mention our latest Quick Take, we’ve learned that the fastest way to critical mass in selling alcohol-related products…is not to sell alcohol. Think about that for a half-second – while we tell you that this is an AFFILIATE LINK to today’s “Quick Take” – here in the USA, 50 different states have 50 […]

Continue reading...

10 Underrated Cheap Red Wines

Cheap Red Wines

Realizing we have a decent history of drinking (er, “tasting”) here at Metasip World HQ, we thought we’d look back into the vault and figure out the 10 Best in the Red Category. Let’s be honest here: the world of the internet adores lists. We’re not alone, as we have to admit to having tried […]

Continue reading...

YAO MING MAKES WINE! OMG!

Yao Ming

We have never, in our history here at Metasip, been driven to immediately stop what we are doing and go straight to the blog and post something with a title in all caps. Until today. There he is, all smiles. Yao Ming. Chinese basketball megastar. The first Chinese national to play in the NBA, Yao […]

Continue reading...

Ready for Metakitchen?

Metakitchen Logo

“And now for something completely different…” Except, in this case, it’s not completely different. Metasip is certainly a fun site to work on, and it’s been a real blast building community around this concept – which we’ve described to stakeholders as “like Yelp, but for alcohol.” And we’re not going anywhere for awhile: we’re still […]

Continue reading...

Quick Takes: Wine Bee

Cavalchina Bardolino DOC

Hey, we’re back with another Quick Take – in this one, we introduce you to Wine Bee, a unique site that takes you all around Italy – twenty wine regions covered by their buyers – to . As with all the Quick Takes so far, this is an Affiliate Link, which means if you take advantage […]

Continue reading...

SIA Scotch Whisky

SIA Scotch Whisky

We write, we do videos. Choose either or both. We aim to please. As for this whisky…I guess it aims to please, too! I remember the glee when I got the email from the SIA brand manager. “Can we send you a bottle to review?” Well, yee-ha! Of course, brand manager for SIA Scotch Whisky, […]

Continue reading...