Why is Chuck Only Two Bucks?

It’s Sunday and it’s almost time for the inevitable trip to the grocery store. Whether it’s a full blown meal prep trip or a simple snack run, we all find ourselves in this dreaded position. However, there’s a small two dollar light at the end of the tunnel that makes every trip worth it and his name is Chuck. Charles Shaw or “Two Buck Chuck” is the infamous brand of Trader Joe’s wines that go for no more than a few dollars. Is it a scam? How can Chuck really only be two bucks?

Charles Shaw is one of the wines under the Bronco Wine company which is owned by Fred Franzia. “Franzia” probably sounds familiar because it’s the name of the wildly popular line of cheap, boxed wines you and your pals probably chugged at those crazy college frat parties. This company is a veteran of the cheaply produced wine, so it makes sense that Charles Shaw is under the Bronco umbrella.

To really get to the bottom of this mystery, it’s important to take a look at how this brand of juice is made. When most think of California winemaking, Napa Valley comes into focus. However, the grapes destined to become Charles Shaw are actually planted in the San Joaquin Valley. It’s much cheaper to plant in the San Joaquin Valley because the climate isn’t the most ideal atmosphere for prime grape planting as it can get pretty hot. The temperature creates huge harvests, but the heat also increases the risk of producing over-ripened grapes which reduces the overall quality of a wine.

Along with farming, other production methods also play into why this bottle of wine is such a bargain. Instead of aging the wines in oak barrels, American oak chips are soaked in the wine to help round out the flavor of Charles Shaw. French oak barrels can be pretty costly, and using American oak chips rather than the imported oak helps cut costs. Chuck is also mass-produced, and the wine is packaged using lighter-weight glass bottles keeping shipping weights low. Production costs are kept low, so Chuck can remain only a few dollars.

Although there are many critics of Charles Shaw, the wine still manages to fly off shelves nationwide. According to Business Insider, “It’s one of the best-selling products ever sold at Trader Joe’s, exceeding 800 million bottles since the wine debuted at $1.99 in 2002.”  

If you haven’t grabbed a bottle yet, you have all the time in the world. Chuck’s clearly not disappearing anytime soon.


Leave a Reply