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. 

YAO MING MAKES WINE! OMG!

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.

Yao Ming

Photo courtesy sporta.com.

There he is, all smiles. Yao Ming. Chinese basketball megastar. The first Chinese national to play in the NBA, Yao gained fame in the 2000s, and helped the game continue to grow globally. And, it turns out, he is using that superstardom and fame back home to make wine. People: YAO MING MAKES WINE! OMG!

I’ll admit: this sneaked up on me. I wasn’t expecting this AT ALL, but…it does make total sense.

I was going about my business actually…my business is that of site manager for two burgeoning properties here on the web: Not just Metasip (where you are right now) but also Metakitchen (where you will soon visit, and sign up to Like on Facebook, and Tweet with and…). Part of this mission includes the mantra of “subscribe to everything,” since we don’t know what we don’t know (and we also want to make sure that we have the right stuff in our own email newsletter when we launch it).

Imagine my surprise, then, when reading a great Wine Enthusiast post on “Pairing Wine with Mother Sauces,” I saw an ad on the right hand side of the page. For a wine. With the name “Yao Ming.” I did not know that Yao Ming makes wine.

YAO MING MAKES WINE! OMG!

We’ll stop yelling, now that we have your attention.

Yao at Work

Courtesy yaofamilywines.com

A couple of notes about this particular wine that caught our eye:

  1. It is NOT cheap. The folks over at WineExpress will sell you a bottle for under $90. (Link provided as a public service; we don’t make anything if you buy from that link.)
  2. It has been well-received by the wine community, it appears. The video from the tasting guy at WineExpress, Josh Farrell, tells us it’s got “a nice chocolate note, black cherry, black currants.” “Made by someone who knows what they are doing.” AND…”this will really show something in five to eight years.”
  3. Yao Ming might be the smartest guy on the planet. Look at the label:

Yao Ming Wine

Am I going to buy this wine? NO. You can buy me a bottle, and, if you work for Yao’s winery, I’m happy to taste-test a bottle and give it a review. That’s not likely though…and, that’s okay. I’m not the target audience.

This label is insanely smart because it has a photo of a vineyard, the name “Yao Ming,” the grape (Cab; the one tasted by Wine Express is from 2010, the photo is from Houston Press and shows a 2009 vintage), and the words “Napa Valley.”

At roughly $90 a bottle for a California Cabernet, Americans will likely pass and suggest a bigger name Cab. But the growing Chinese wealthy class will gobble this stuff up – not only is it from a premier region for Cabs, it’s also has Yao’s name on it.

Have You Had This Wine?

If you have sampled Yao Ming’s wine – any year is fine with us – we’d love to hear from you. Until we do, slow clap for Mr. Yao. Finding that niche – Chinese people who consume wine – and leveraging your good name to give them something of value…nice move.

 

Quick Takes: Wine Bee

Metasip Quick Takes

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 of a deal by clicking on this link, we’ll be compensated. But if we get compensated, we can keep bringing these Metasip reviews to you. And other cool stuff. Time for you to meet Wine Bee!

Quick Take: Wine Bee

WineBee.com is the link, and what we noticed first about the site is the imagery. I love wine, but, to quote Liz Lemon, “I want to go to there.”

But back to wine for a second or two…

Cavalchina Bardolino DOC

Yum. This guy over here looks like a steal at $16.40 per bottle. I think I want two.

NOTES on this wine: “The grapes used for this Veneto region wine mature late and it is necessary for there to be a good climate at the end of the season to realize the potential of these grapes. When this happens we have one of the most distinguished wines in the Italian panorama: not too deep in color but with an intense bouquet, nuances of cherries and marasca. On the palate it has a persistent peppery, spicy character.

“To ensure these characteristics the grapes are, after destalking and pressing, fermented for 72 hours at 280C then the temperature is lowered to 220C up to the end of the fermentation, to avoid over extraction of tannins. The average maceration is 10 days followed by the malolactic fermentation. The wine is kept for 3 months in stainless steel vats.”

This is one of the…well, it looked like HUNDREDS of wines on the WineBee.com site.

Give it a try, you may like what you taste over there.

Big Asterisk Here: only a few states are on their list – “We provide shipments to the following states: California, Alaska, District of Columbia, Idaho, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, West Virginia and Wyoming.”

See you next time for another Quick Take.

Quick Take: Global Wine Cellars

You had me at “Reds of Italy.” Affiliate Links below, meaning we’re compensated if you buy through this link.

Today’s Quick Take features Global Wine Cellars: they’re running a pretty darn cool special on Reds of Italy. Enjoy exceptional reds from 3 of Italy’s premier growing regions. Only $49.99 (a $59.75 value).

Global Wine Cellars

Italian Reds from Global Wine Cellars

Elsewhere on these pages, we’ve reviewed a couple reds from Italy. (That sound you hear is me scratching my head trying to remember which ones…OH, that’s right: Montepulciano! So maybe it’s just one red from Italy. We really liked it, it was from Aldi, and often the big, bold red grapes from Aldi are, indeed, a tremendous value.)

But what about THESE Reds from Italy? Well, we have yet to take advantage of this particular deal – though we’ve heard good things about Global Wine Cellars – here are the three that, as of this writing (December 10, 2014), they are featuring on the site:

Dolcetto

Though the name means “little sweet one,” that doesn’t refer to the taste but, rather, the ease of growing and making the wine from this grape. It’s also the everyday red for people in the Piedmont.

Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon

They do blends in Italy, and even blends of grapes more popular in, say, the Bordeaux region. Of France. France and Italy DO get along!

Nebbiolo

The name means “little fog,” and it’s considered the “most noble” grape among those grown in Italy.

More than Italian Reds

Not interested in wines from Italy this time around? No worries, spin through the Global Wine Cellars site and see what else is there – again, “Global” is the operative word. Hand-crafted, boutique wines, delivered. 25% off your first club shipment and no shipping charges.

Fine print: wines subject to change, per the website. We make no guarantees, use the affiliate link at your discretion, and Global Wine Cellars terms and conditions will apply here.