- Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw wines – also known as “Two-Buck Chuck” – are notoriously inexpensive.
- Business Insider’s retail desk recently did a wine tasting with a number of these wines.
- Here’s what we thought of eight Charles Shaw selections.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Trader Joe’s has quite a reputation when it comes to wine.
After all, each of the grocer’s line of signature Charles Shaw wines sells for just $US3.99. Though a bit of a misnomer now, the wine’s low costs have earned it the nickname “Two-Buck Chuck,” as it used to retail for $US1.99. But despite the spike in prices, the wine continues to be popular with thrifty wine shoppers.
I put together a workplace wine tasting with eight Charles Shaw bottles. Five of us from Business Insider’s retail desk ended up sampling the wines together last week.
Overall, we found Costco’s private-label Kirkland wines to be superior to their Trader Joe’s counterparts.
But that assessment comes with two important caveats. The white wines weren’t properly chilled beforehand – that’s my bad. Also, Charles Shaw wines are significantly cheaper than Kirkland wines.
Here’s what we thought of Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw wines:
8. We collectively hated the white zinfandel.
The Charles Shaw white zinfandel didn’t just fail to win us over. This wine – the first bottle we popped open for the taste test – aggressively assaulted our taste buds and left us feeling anxious to sample the rest of the Two-Buck Chucks.
I likened the taste to “painful candy” – sickly sweet with a nasty bite. Other reviewers slammed the selection as tasting “way too sweet” with a “burn-y aftertaste.”
“It’s just … candy,” one taster wrote. “It tastes like a headache.”
Another colleague likened the taste of the bright-pink liquid to that of a “melted Jolly Rancher.”
Everyone rated the white zinfandel a one – indicating that we all agreed that it’s “terrible” – and everyone agreed that it wasn’t even worth its rock-bottom price.
7. The chardonnay called to mind cheap dehydration-inducing popcorn.
Popcorn is a nice treat. White wine that tastes like low-quality popcorn butter? Not so much.
An uncanny similarity to the taste of liquid popcorn butter had the retail desk collectively agreeing to chuck out the Two-Buck Chuck chardonnay.
Tasters described the wine’s flavour as “bland and slimy,” “gross,” and “oily.” We agreed that we wouldn’t be reaching for this option again anytime soon.
6. The sauvignon blanc reminded me of a different mind-altering substance.
Truth be told, I felt that this wine smelled a bit like a different substance folks use to get a buzz. That is to say, this drink smelled like weed.
But I want to note that the wine’s pungency is likely at least partly my fault. In my rush to organise the wine tasting, I didn’t chill the white wines. That fact led a number of us reviewers to agree that this beverage could be a reasonable option when cold.
At the time of the tasting, however, we were less than impressed. On the issue of whether the wine was worth its low price, we were split, with two negative answers, two affirmative answers, and one taster writing, “I think so?”
The wine brought to mind adjectives such as “skunky,” “spicy,” “pungent,” “punchy,” and “mineral.”
5. The pinot grigio was boring but inoffensive.
Trader Joe’s pinot grigio didn’t wow us as a group, but it didn’t send us running either.
“Inoffensive” was one descriptor that got thrown around a lot to describe this wine, although one reviewer said that despite the drink’s “grassy notes,” it stilled tasted “like a headache.”
One reviewer said it’s certainly a wine that they would “drink for free.” Three of us tasters agreed that this wine was worth it, with two reviewers dissenting.
Overall, it’s a slightly bland option with a mild flavour. It’s a great pick if you’re looking for a cheap white wine to mix with cranberry juice or whip into a sangria for a summertime picnic.
4. Fans of acidic wines will probably like the merlot.
The Charles Shaw merlot’s distinguishing characteristic is its acidity.
I personally found the tannin-rich beverage tongue-curling, but I didn’t hate it. This was a wine that garnered relatively positive reviewers, receiving three scores of three and two scores of four out of a possible five.
We liked the wine for its “acidic,” “smooth,” “puckery,” and “peppery” qualities, as well as its “easy-drinking” vibe.
As for whether we’d buy the wine ourselves, one reviewer said they’d “not prefer to,” and the rest of us agreed that we would make the purchase. One taster added the caveat that they would not serve it to friends.
3. The shiraz was a solid, smoky red.
There’s no smoke without fire – unless, of course, you’re talking about a smoky red wine.
We found the Charles Shaw shiraz to have a strong “tobacco” taste. How we felt about that came down to personal preference. Two tasters said that they’d skip this one during a Trader Joe’s run, while the three other reviewers said they liked it enough to try it again.
Overall, the wine was labelled as “smoky,” “bitter,” and “fun.” One reviewer called the shiraz “challenging and complex – but not necessarily in a good way,” while another taster said that the complexity was “ultimately rewarding.”
2. Trader Joe’s red blend would be a great holiday pick.
I love a cosy red wine you can drink on a wintry day, so Trader Joe’s red-wine blend was my favourite out of all the wines we tried. Not all of my colleagues were so rosy about this drink, so I didn’t rank it at the top. But we mostly agreed that this was a solid pick.
Tasters picked out notes such as “nutmeg,” “warming spices,” “citrus zest,” and “spiciness.”
One colleague had a more mixed reaction, writing that the blend “tastes cheap without much complexity, but honestly I don’t hate it.” The taster concluded that they would serve this wine to friends who were “already drunk.”
“I would buy it and serve it at a lushy Christmas party,” another reviewer wrote. “It’s cheap and efficient.”
This was a more utilitarian option for anyone looking for a cheap and tasty red to curl up with around the holidays.
1. We enjoyed the cabernet sauvignon’s full-bodied flavour.
Trader Joe’s cabernet sauvignon got the most universally positive reaction out of any wine that we tried.
I’ll also note that this was the last bottle that we sampled.
“Full-bodied” was a popular descriptor, with tasters admiring the cabernet’s “peppery” and “woodsy” notes. Everyone agreed that this wine – which was praised as “excellent” and “delicious” – was worth the price and a second try.
“I’ve paid much more for worse wine,” one colleague wrote. “It’s heavy but not crazy.”
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