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Wine - Taste Test - CS vs. 3W

Updated on October 24, 2020
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Lee has a degree in philosophy, but when cooking, Lee is more like an experimental scientist than an abstract thinker. Loves new ideas.

Head to Head (Plus Two Dark Horses)

Let's face it: Whole Foods just could not stand it that Trader Joe's draws so many customers in by offering Fred Franzia's Merlot, Cab, Shiraz, and others, including several whites, sold under the "Charles Shaw" label, at $1.99 a bottle.*

The famous "Two-Buck Chuck".

So, now, despite the fact that this might do some damage to its pricey wine section, WF has decided to fight fire with fire. They have begun offering bottles of Three Wishes wines at a price that basically matches what TJ sells its Charles Shaw for.

A question now arises. Does 3W taste as good, or even better, than CS?

* in California. The price goes up by a buck or so depending on the gasoline which has to be purchased to port these bottles to distant locations, like the East Coast. Currently, in California, there has been a small price rise which also affects the rest of the country -- so the wine is now actually Two-and-a-Half-Buck Chuck

The taste test

The ground rules

Simplicity itself: No panel of experts, no panel at all. Just me and the Comments below by those who stumble upon this contest while surfing the net.

You are encouraged to do the same thing I am going to do right here -- taste the two wines, describe the experience a bit, and say which one you liked best.

Both CS and 3W produce bottles based on a number of varietals, both red and white, but we are confining ourselves here (so far) to Merlot.

The results are in


-- There's not much "nose" or aroma from the wine in the glass. The taste is thin and a bit sour, though not unpleasant. There are no hints of berries or chocolate or lead pencil, but then the vast majority of wines sold at many multiples of the price of 3W don't really have these hints either, unless you have a wine column to write.

I don't know whether the thinness comes from what amounts to, in effect, watering the wine down to achieve the desired price, or to some other factor, but it is the main characteristic of this wine.

When I began this, I mistakenly thought, for some reason, that the name of this Whole Foods wine was not Three Wishes, but Three Whispers. Given the amount of taste here, Three Whispers might be a more appropriate name. What do you think?


-- A sip of this feels in the mouth more like what a red wine should feel like. There's more body to it. As with the 3W, the taste is not strong and is a bit sour, but not in any way unpleasant. In fact, we can be more positive than that because when drinking the CS Merlot you recognize the taste of red wine here, and it tastes good. Indeed the taste improves the more you drink it. Soft and smooth are terns often used of Merlot, and this one qualifies under that description. The aroma of the wine in the glass is not significantly greater than that of the 3W, however.

Neither wine is a titan, but the CS is very drinkable. Day after day it provides a lot of simple gustatory pleasure.

That's the analysis, simple but to the point. The results are in, but what do you think?

Additional points

CS has a cork cork, 3W has a plastic cork which is difficult to fit back into the neck of the bottle once the bottle has been opened.

Concerning the plastic wrapping at the top of the neck of each bottle:

CS has a built-in strip just below the top which can be pried up and then, by pulling on it, used to remove the plastic wrapping at the top of the bottle. This exposes the top of the cork to your corkscrew and facilitates your use of it in extracting the cork.

3W has no such strip. You have to cut the top of the plastic off with a knife or with one of those specialized gizmos.

A dark horse

Here's another $2/bottle contender.

This one is found in some supermarket chains, but not the big chains.

The taste is better than 3W, not quite as good as CS. It's not a bad investment,however, particularly if there is no TJ in your particular vicinity. I found this bottle at a supermarket in a brand new town built in the Mojave desert. I was just passing through, but thought I would give the wine a try.

Yet another dark horse

Fox Brook is another attempt to take on Charles Shaw. at under $2 a bottle.

This one is sold in the Save Mart chain, the chain that bought most (but not all) of the Albertson's chain, at some point, though who owns what in the supermarket business seems to change regularly.

The question of course is how does it taste?

Watery -- that is how it tastes. It's a pity because one has the sense that there might be something tasty in there if it hadn't been diluted so.

Charles Shaw still wears the crown.

What's your view?

"Wine makes daily living easier,

less hurried, with fewer tensions,

and more tolerance."

-- Benjamin Franklin

Parting facts

The actual owner and producer of the Charles Shaw wines is Bronco Wine Company, the nation's fourth largest producer of wine. Bronco is located in Ceres, California.

Ceres is located in the northern part of the southern part of California’s enormous Central Valley (this southern part is referred to as the San Jaoquin Vally, after its main river). Ceres is part of the Modesto “Metropolitan Statistical Area.” Modesto (92 miles east of San Francisco) is where George Lucas grew up and set his first successful film, American Graffiti.

Part of a series

Pictures, pictures, pictures

Series within series, actually. Food & Cooking, for example, then -- within that -- series on vegetables, fruits, seafood, meat, etc. Books, too. Ideas, too. Travel, too. Click on "featured" at the top of the right-hand column, under my profile, for examples. Key virtues:. pictures, clear step-by-step text. Delicious -- whether foods or ideas! All of the series, and all of the items in each series, can be found, organized by floor, at this link: Lee White's Department Store. Happy shopping! -- everything is for free!

Real Meal

My usual statement here is "Real Meal. Unlike fancy food mags, where images are hyped and food itself is secondary, all pix shown here are from a real meal, prepared and eaten by me and my friends. No throwing anything away till perfection is achieved. This is the real deal --- a Real Meal." Of course the food items here are wine and not a meal I have prepared for you to consider following. But the basic principle still applies. Here we've taken something basic from the marketplace and explored its value, nothing hyped about it.


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