Starting from the Bottom: A Date with Charles Shaw

You can’t write a wine blog without drinking, right? I decided to start at the bottom of the barrel with the legendary “Two-Buck Chuck” from Trader Joe’s. A college student’s best friend at such a cheap price (although it was actually $3!), the Trader Joe’s wine guide says that the wine is “made for us by one of California’s largest winemakers – a real stickler for quality and consistency – these wines are fruity, uncomplicated and meant to be drunk young (and often).”

Several urban legends including the banning of corkscrews and subsequently wine on airplanes after 9/11, have tried to account for the mysterious origins of this unusually inexpensive beverage. However, it is more likely that the overproduction of grapes along the California coast have allowed the owner, Fred Franzia, to bottle excess wine at bottom dollar prices and pass on the savings to happy consumers.

After perusing the selection at my local Trader Joe’s, I decided to start simple with a classic Merlot and a Pinot Grigo.


Full disclosure, I tend to be more partial to white wine, but this is likely due to my limited experience with red.  My mom brought me a bottle of red wine back from Iowa (of all places) after she visited there this summer and needless to say I did not enjoy it. Who knew they grew grapes in Iowa anyways?

So I decided to start with the Pinot. A girlfriend and I popped the cork on Thursday night and we were both impressed! The wine was very light and fruity and easy to drink (for better or worse). Although it was not exceptional or anything special, I think I might buy it again to have on hand for an average weeknight dinner.

The next day I tried the Merlot.


Based on my previous experiences with red wine, I had very low expectations. However, I was pleasantly surprised! The wine was very smooth and not bitter at all. I think I may have even liked it more than the Pinot. I also think though that the more you drink wine, the more you become accustomed to the acidity that can be a turn-off at first. I will have to explore this hypothesis more in future posts.

Overall, my date with Charles Shaw was a success! I think that considering the low price and palatable quality of the wine, there may even be a second date in our future. I would recommend it for anyone on a budget who does not care about impressing other people with their expensive taste.


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