What Is Two Buck Chuck Wine? (And What's The Charles Shaw Divorce Story?)

“Two Buck Chuck” is the colloquial name for a line of inexpensive wine sold by Trader Joe’s.  The wine is actually called Charles Shaw, and includes a wide selection of wines, including chardonnay, merlot, pinot grigio, and more.

Charles Shaw wine got its slang name because each bottle is priced at $1.99 – at least in California, the home state of Trader Joe’s.  It may cost more in other states, because of the distribution cost.  (For example, here in Washington state it costs $2.99 per bottle.)

Two Buck Chuck is remarkable for being really good – especially for wine that costs $2 per bottle and has a real cork (not a plastic screw top).  In fact, in a high profile taste test in California’s wine country, Charles Shaw Chardonnay took first place in a blind taste test, winning out over many more expensive and exclusive brands.

The Two Buck Chuck Divorce Story

There are a lot of urban legends regarding why Charles Shaw wine is so cheap:

  • Charles Shaw is an eccentric millionaire who wants to bring quality wine to the proletariat, and subsidizes the cost out of his own pocket.
  • Charles Shaw is involved in a vicious divorce, and is dumping his stock on the market in order to spite his ex-wife.
  • Airlines overbought huge supplies of Charles Shaw wine for their first class passengers, but the new TSA rules prohibiting corkscrews mean that they can’t open the bottles, so they dumped the wine on the market at a steep discount.

All of these stories are untrue. The truth is that Charles Shaw Wine was conceived and created by Fred Franzia, an outspoken and colorful character who doesn’t believe that wine deserves the expense. Franzia (better known for Franzia Wine, which is sold in a cardboard box) purchased a winery in California’s Napa Valley. This allows him to label his wines as “Napa Valley wine,” because they are created there – although the grapes themselves are grown elsewhere.


Why Is Two Buck Chuck So Cheap?

Franzia takes advantage of wine grape surpluses in the market across the country, buying up huge lots of grapes when the wineries can’t sell them. The last few years have been tough for wineries, and some places are letting the grapes wither on the vine rather than harvest them, because it isn’t worth the cost to harvest.

Franzia buys these discount grapes, brews them into wines at his Napa Valley facility, and there you go! Two dollar wine.

Two Buck Chuck Chardonnay

Of all the "two buck Chuck" wines, the chardonnay is perhaps the best known.  Charles Shaw chardonnay was judged to be the best chardonnay in the state of California in a blind taste test!  It beat out wines that were considerably more expensive!

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MarkAse 5 years ago from San Diego, CA

Erika,

Interesting stuff, I thought you might be interested that the folks who make Charles Shaw these days also make a ton of other labels of similar quality. They're called Bronco Wine Company if you want to look them up

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