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Charles Shaw Wines in So Cal.


chefette
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I was in the suburbs of Los Angeles, California this past weekend visiting family and came across a fascinating wine phenomenon - Two Buck Chuck - Charles Shaw wines selling at Trader Joes for the absolutely unbelievable price of $1.99 a bottle. Some of this was pressed upon me that very evening and I was afraid - very afraid. Fortunately the wine was warm and everyone acquiessed to drinking a nice chilled Spanish white that I had selected. But I am curious. Very curious.

An article from the LA Times says: "Since it was introduced in February, Charles Shaw wine has gained a cult-like following in Southern California, with wine drinkers backing their cars up to the loading dock of the Los Angeles-based discounter to lay in a supply of the Trader Joe's exclusive."

http://www.epinions.com/content_3002638468

Charles Shaw Wines selling for $1.99 a bottle at Trader Joes in Southern California (L.A. Suburbs). The urban legend is that it is available so cheaply because airlines have returned their stock of it since they can no longer use cork screws to open it (because everyone knows what a dangerous weapon a corkscrew can be in the wrong hands...). Apparently this urban legend regarding Charles Shaw wines is not true.

Apparently Charles Shaw wines are among the top 20 most popular wines in the US and it is merely a victim of the current wine glut in the US right now. Until last week I had never heard of it. Now That I have read some articles on it, I am almost sorry that I did not try it myself.

http://www.snopes.com/business/market/shawwine.htm

In another article I see that it has actually ranked well in taste tests. "Despite their low cost, Charles Shaw wines have established a solid reputation, reflecting the California wine industry's widespread investment in state-of-the-art winemaking equipment. Charles Shaw's 2000 Chardonnay in a blind taste test by trade magazine Wine & Vine beat out a $67 rival." http://biz.yahoo.com/rc/021230/bizfeature_wine_1.html

So, is this $2 Charles Shaw wine any good? Is there really a wine glut? Is something like this a benefit to the wine industry in the US?

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I picked up some of these wines in chicago. Cabernet as well as merlot. After tasting both i felt the merlot had more expressive qualities than the cabernet. Acceptable? Yes! Nothing to write home about. Interested to try the chardonnay

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where in chicago

Awbrig, I picked them up at trader joes on north lincoln. I believe they have the sole rights to these wines. There were some other interesting, good values that i have yet to drink. I was told they sell over a thousand cases of the charles shaw wines a week at that location alone. Let me know what you think.

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I picked up the Cabernet, the Chardonay, and the Sauvignon Blanc last week. So far we have tried the Cab and the Sauvignon Blanc. The Cab seemed acceptable (a bit bland and kool aidy, but just as good as what I had at happy hour the other day). I thought the Sauvignon Blanc was pretty good.

And for $3.49 it is hard to complain.

Edited by chefette (log)
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From Jan 10 Wine Spectator, James Laube writing....

"Once upon a time, there was a Charles F. Shaw -- a person and a winery. Shaw was an investment banker who fell in love with Beaujolais and came to Napa Valley in the early 1980s with the belief that Americans might cotton to a Beaujolais-style wine. We didn't, Shaw struggled. He tried to rescue his winery by introducing other wines, but things never panned out.

In 1991, Shaw sold his winery and left the wine business. His 15 minutes of fame came 13 years too late.

While Shaw moved on, the brand name lived on and was later purchased by Fred Franzia, owner of Bronco Wine Co., who collects wine labels the way some people collect board games. Franzia owns a couple of large wineries in Napa and the Central Valley, and specializes in buying mostly cheap bulk wines that many other wineries don't want, blending them and selling them under multiple labels, including Forest Glen, Napa Ridge and Rutherford Vintners.

What made Two-Buck Chuck click is the huge wine glut in California. There was so much unsold bulk wine this past year that producers were almost giving it away. When the numbers are right -- enough volume at the right price (about $1 a gallon) -- Franzia is one of the key buyers, known in the business as bottom fishers.

Franzia also has a distribution company, which gives him added clout; he can ship directly to retailers in California, which he did, setting the $1.99 a bottle price. (It's closer to $3 outside California, due to higher distribution costs.)

No one knows how much Two-Buck Chuck will eventually pass through Trader Joe's, because there's still a sizable surplus of California wine, which could last several more years. A Bronco spokesman said they estimated that 1 million cases were sold in December, and the bottling line ran three shifts on New Year's Day to meet demand. It's entirely possible Two-Buck could eventually hit 3 million cases.

The Shaw frenzy adds a new twist to the old wine joke, "How do you make a small fortune in the wine business? You start with a large one." Now there's another rejoinder: You sell a million cases of $2 wine a month. "

I just opened the CS Merlot; woulda guessed mediocre Beaujolais.

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where in chicago

Any Trader Joe's.

But especially for you, mon ami, a quote from last week's "Newsweek."

"Jason Smith. sommelier at Chicago's Charlie Trotter's, admits he'd never offer these wines at his house, but found some of them downright.....acceptable. Try the 2002 Sauvignon Blanc('For the price, it's outstanding') and the 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon ('most complex, most intensity.')

If Jason says a bottle of three buck Chuck can cut it, who am I to differ?

My husband was in TJ's for some cheese last week and saw the poor sweating kid frantically restocking the Chuck while customers were loading multiple cases into their carts. Kid mentioned he had other stuff to stock, but was pretty well busy just trying to keep up for the demand for the Chuck.

I've tasted the Cab, and it could well sell for fifteen bucks under another label.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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The Cabernet tasted like rancid grape juice...and I was trying the wine with a very open mind!

If there is one great thing about the wine is that it really gives you a better appreciation of a good red wine!

Edited by awbrig (log)
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When the first cases of these $2 wines appeared at TJ, they were quite impressive, and we bought and drank quite a bit. A few weeks later, the supply became spotty at our local stores, and buyers were saying that the Charles Shaw was a one-time bulk purchase and was now petering out. Then, all of a sudden, there was more in the stores than ever before, cases stacked to the ceiling! And no end in sight. Problem is, it no longer tasted as good. Still not bad for two bucks, but not so good that I'd choose them over wines in TJ's next price point ($2.99). In other words, they started to taste like $2 wines. At first I thought I was just tired of drinking the same wine for weeks. But Bobaloo's post (above) explains it: it's not the same wine at all, but a hodge-podge of cheap gallonage bought all over the state! So the quality will veer dramatically from bottle to bottle. Of the last few that I tasted, the Merlot was a better Merlot than the Cabernet as a Cabernet, if you get my drift. Same goes for the Chardonay and the Sauvignon Blanc. But who knows where they were from, and where the next bottle will come from?

The current monster bargain at TJ in CA is 2000 Cline Zinfandel for $5.99. Cline is an actual vineyard, so the quality is consistent. This wine normally costs $7.99 at TJ, and tastes like it costs $12.99.

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