Two-Buck Chuck Impresses Critics As Well As Customers

By Cate O’Malley

Can a bottle of wine that costs only $1.99 really taste good? Some critics seem to think so.

Two Buck Chuck is the affectionate nickname given to Charles Shaw wine, sold exclusively by Trader Joes. ABC News did a blind taste test recently and pitted both the red and white varieties against a $50 bottle of chardonnay, and Two Buck Chuck came out the leader. When Wine & Vine did their own test, Two Buck Chuck rose above a $67 bottle of chardonnay. Arthur Frommer’s reports that at a “pretigiuous wine competition on the East Coast, Charles Shaw wine scored a double gold in blind tests, making it one of only 53 out of 2,500 entrants to reach the ultimate judging rounds.”

How do you like those grapes?

The Charles Shaw wine only debuted in 2002, but by 2003, it has raked in revenue of $300 million. It all started when Fred Franzia, who runs Bronco Wine Company in California, bought the defunct Charles Shaw label and started selling popular wines for pennies. By controlling more vineyard acres than anyone else in California, and having a storage capacity of 62 million gallons, Franzia was faced with a lot of grapes to get rid of and the solution … and Two Buck Chuck was born.

The numbers are staggering. The Bronco Wine Company produces 1,440,000 bottles a day, every day of the week. In 2003, they produced 25 million cases, and most of them were from Trader Joes. Because Bronco’s owns its own distributorship, they can cut out the middleman and drive cost down, passing the savings directly on to the consumer.

Trader Joes has 250 locations around the country, but if you don’t have one near you, you’re not out of luck. Bronco’s also produces value-priced wines for Meijer (their Crane Lake wine sells for 3/$9) and Safeway (Bronco’s Sea Ridge label goes for $4.50/bottle). Although Franzia has approached Wal-Mart and Costco about stocking a $2 bottle of wine, neither have bit yet.

Bottoms up!

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Reader Comments

I just tried the Chardonnay, and found it to be fairly decent. I’m much more of a red wine drinker, and the ultra-cheapies haven’t done so well in the reds, in my opinion.

I have sampled several wines under the label - a couple were successful in so far as they didnt make my teeth fall out. One, if I recall, was quite good. The wine changes with time though depending on what juice they can buy.

Can you tell me if Bronco Wine Co. has the label ‘Oak Creek’ and if not
can you tell me who does?? Have been all over the web and can’t find it…
Thanks, Bo