Sunday, July 08, 2007

Chuck the Two-Buck Chuck?

Finally, the column you've been waiting for. After several months of anticipation, with the entire blogosphere rife with speculation as to when I would finally keep my promise, here it is: my review of the entire line of Charles Shaw fine wines, better known as “Two-Buck Chuck.”

Two-Buck Chuck, for the four of you out there who don't already know, is the house brand wine for Trader Joe's (that Mecca for middle-aged, middle-class pseudo-hippies looking for cheap natural foods).

Two-Buck Chuck is actually made by the Bronco Wine Company, which recently lost a lawsuit concerning their misleading use of the word “Napa” on wines not from Napa, but from Lodi (which is where most of your Chuck hails from). Bronco wines is a large and notable producer of lower end wines.

And nothing is lower end than Two-Buck Chuck. I mean really, $1.99 a bottle? You expect to pay 20-30 times that for a solid, but not top-of-the-line, Napa Valley Cabernet. The 2005 Chateau Latour is expected to debut at about 400 times the cost of a bottle of Charles Shaw.

Can this stuff even be drinkable? Or is it the greatest bargain in the world of wine?

Sadly, there's only one way to find out: Have a wine snob down the swill and report back to you. God forbid you should cough up two bucks and taste it yourself.

The only reason I subject myself to this sort of treatment is because I know that you get a sick and perverted pleasure from seeing a wine snob lower himself to your pitiful level and grovel in the common juice of non-pedigreed grapes. People like you love nothing more than seeing the mighty brought low. And what worse way to do it than to subject a highly trained and refined palate to the lowest of the low: the dreaded, the God-awful, the sewer-spawned Two-Buck Chuck. Damn you.

Charles Shaw 2005 California Sauvignon Blanc

Very light and grassy on the nose, typical of a good sauv. blanc, with hints of lemon peel and papaya. Yum. Light and refreshing on the tongue with citrus and herb notes. Overall, a bit like a non-sweet wine cooler. I'd drink this on a hot day without reservation. Hey, Chuckie-boy comes through with a wine that's actually non-toxic. I'm impressed! “Enjoyable.” 3 stars.

Charles Shaw 2005 California Chardonnay

Ugh. Chardonnay. Not my favorite. But this one comes off nice on the nose with strong hints of butter and cream with a touch of herbs thrown in. On the tongue it's very smooth, but light for a chardonnay (which I personally like). Not oaky at all, but very creamy. As a chardonnay hater, this is my favorite chardonnay of all time. “Drinkable+.” 2.75 stars.

Charles Shaw 2006 California Shiraz

2006? This thing is a baby. It should be illegal to drink this stuff. This is a very light wine. On the nose, this has some light fruit aromas, with a ton of vanilla smacking you around. On the tongue, very light and tart, no hint in sight of the typical shiraz blast of black fruit and black pepper. In a blind test, I would have guessed that this was a $10 Chianti. Not a “real” a shiraz – for shame. “Drinkable, but barely.” 2.25 stars.

Charles Shaw 2005 California Merlot

Smells like a dirt clod. No, a garden full of green peppers. And green beans. And unripe tomatoes. Maybe a couple of zucchini plants. Surprising and surprisingly attractive. On the tongue, not much fruit, but a nice complexity (for a $2 bottle of wine, anyway). A bit of a metallic taste on the finish, but that fades quickly. I actually liked this one a lot, but the unripe fruit flavors will only appeal to “old world” fans. Fruit-lovers stay away. “Yum (for me anyway)!” 3 stars.

Charles Shaw 2004 California Cabernet Sauvignon

Mmmmm…soap. At least, the first hit on the nose was definitely soapy, and we all know how good soap tastes. Also, a touch of dark fruit, a hint of vanilla, and a whiff of shoe polish. On the tongue, a strong hit of vanilla and oak (but not overpowering) and a bit of raspberry. Very tart and simple with mild tannins. Thankfully the soap smell doesn't carry over. Not impressive. Very light for a cabernet. “Non-toxic, but who cares.” 2 stars.

I'm amazed. None of these wines were the vile, dreadful, toxic sludge that I was expecting. And a couple of them were wines that I wouldn't mind actually drinking. So, drink up Charles Shaw fans, you could do a lot worse and pay a lot more!

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