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Why is Two Buck Chuck so revered?

I did a blind tasting for friends of 7-Eleven's "Yosemite Road" table wine ($3.99 a bottle) vs. Trader Joe's "Charles Shaw" table wine ($2.00 a bottle) and then wrote the synopsis up (http://blogs.ocweekly.com/stickaforki...).

The gist of it was that there is plenty of decent wine under $10, but of the two, 7-Eleven's was actually better. I said at one point that TJ's 2BC Cabernet was undrinkable, because... well... it was. Simultaneously sweet and bitterly tannic, it was so bad that I debated if I'd got a corked bottle (I hadn't).

Well, judging from the e-mail I got, you'd have thought it was a sacred cow.

I don't expect ultra-budget wine to be good, but there's a difference between low-grade wine and the stuff that came out of the 2BC Cab bottle. So now I'm wondering... why is it that people love this wine? Is it just because of the price? Am I missing something here?

If this has been done to death, my apologies... I'm honestly now curious why such a reaction from the readers.

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  1. I've heard from more than one source that "Two Buck Chuck" is not one wine, but that TJ's buys various lots of whatever they can find cheaply enough and puts it all into the same bottles. So occasionally a batch turns up that is truly a spectacular value, while often it's just semi- to un- drinkable plonk.

    4 Replies
    1. re: BobB

      BobB,

      I think that what you heard (but was not made clear), is that Bronco buys grapes from many sources and bottles the wine (may buy bulk wines too) as Charles Shaw. Unlike a good négociant, who sources from excellent vineyards, or winemakers, there is little quality control. It is just about the $'s. Some argue that there are great instances of TBC. Could be. Yet, I have not encountered any. I feel that all, that I have tasted, have been plonk.

      I believe that you need to step back, one step above TJ's, and look to Bronco.

      Hunt

      1. re: BobB

        Bob, Bill is correct.

        Bronco Wine Co., aka the Franzia family (John, Fred, and Joe) makes ALL Charles Shaw. Every drop. Much of the wine is actually crushed and fermented by Charles Shaw; a sizable portion is purchased on the bulk market.

        Trader Joe's has NOTHING to do with the production of "2BC."

        Cheers,
        Jason

        1. re: zin1953

          Jason,

          Hello. You've been absent even more than I have lately. Hope all is well.

          Hunt

          1. re: zin1953

            I'm sure you're correct, I know nothing (other than what I read here) about who actually makes the wine that goes into 2BC bottles. My main point was that, regardless of who's putting it into the bottles, the grapes come from many different places and can differ from batch to batch. Which we all seem to agree on.

        2. Anything that has sales that big (last time I heard TJs sold 15 million cases a year and The New Yorker said sales have now reached 400 million bottles) has to have its fans.

          The one thing you quickly learn in retail wine sales is that people have a wide range of taste preference, wine education and palate sensitivity. It's not unusual for a $5 bottle to outscore a $20 bottle in blind tastings, and that is not always the result of the relative 'quality' of the wine. AT $2 a bottle, people tend not to get too picky either. Under $4 a bottle there may also not be much difference in one vs. the other anyway........ factoring in the huge palate variables, your reaction becomes more understandable.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Midlife

            "It's not unusual for a $5 bottle to outscore a $20 bottle in blind tastings, and that is not always the result of the relative 'quality' of the wine. AT $2 a bottle, people tend not to get too picky either. Under $4 a bottle there may also not be much difference in one vs. the other anyway."

            One thing to add to the mix, regarding the lower end wines and their costs, is that some have major ad campaigns, and these cost $. They can move the cost/bottle up significantly. Take two US$2 bottles of wine, where one has a consumer ad campaign, and it might cost US$5 per bottle. Same US$2 bottles, but someone is banking that the ad campaign will net them more, though they have to charge more than 2x the price as the other. Sometimes this works, and pays dividends. Sometimes it fails and you do not see the ads, or the wine next season.

            With Charles Shaw, TJ's has done most of the advertising with featurettes on the local (and national) news, of seniors loading 5+ cases into their cars. The announcer will ask, "do you really love this wine that much?" To which the senior usually replies, "at $2 per bottle, it's wine." Well, to me, that might be stretching the point, though I guess that the lab at UC Davis, after running gas spectrometer tests, would say that yes, it is wine.

            Some folk will brag about how cheaply they bought wines, while others will brag about how much they paid for their wines. Me, I'm in the middle. I do look at prices, but these are relative to the price of the same bottle at other locations. So long as I receive the satisfaction from the bottle of wine, I usually do not pay close attention to whether it was a US$15 bottle of Zin, or a US$250 bottle of Bordeaux. My scale is did I enjoy it, first, and did it give me enough satisfaction to pay that price, second. For me, it's about the wine, and I do not care if it's the cheaper Zin, or the much more expensive Bdx. If it does not please me, it is not worth any $'s. The Charles Shaw is that way. It is not worth my $'s, regardless of how few I have to shell out.

            As promised, I finally did a recent taste test. I had planned on buying all varietals, and sitting down in a rather formal examination. I did not have to. We attended an event, where the Charles Shaw Cab, Merlot and Chardonnay were being served at a hosted bar. I got a glass of each, for my wife, and for me. I knew the origin, but she did not. [I always ask who the producer is, for any event wine, unless I am on that committee.] I tasted each, as did my wife. We compared notes. Now, remember that I knew the origin, so I was biased against these wines. My wife was unknowing. We tasted, in general event wine glasses, which were marginally OK, but were not likely to enhance any of the wines, nor point one's nose, or palate, directly at the faults. My wife panned each wine, stating that she would not want to drink any of them, ever again. Remember, she had no idea where the Chard was Shafer Red Shoulders Ranch, a Le Montrachet, or a Kendall-Jackson. Same for the Merlot, and for the Cab. She just knew that she did not enjoy even one. I felt the same way, though I had pre-conceived notions, so my tasting was anything but blind.

            Now, I get handed a lot of different wines, especially if I have talked to the purveyor. Many want to change my mind. Very few have been able to do so, and for most of these, I have not paid - they have been given to me, to convert me to, say Chilean wines. Very few success stories here.

            Now, I have had really good US$12 wines, that presented themselves better than some US30 wines have. I do not have a thing against inexpensive wines, but the wine needs to do something for me, and too many just do not. OTOH, I've had US200 wines, that offered me no more than some of those US$12 bottles did.

            Just some personal observations,

            Hunt

          2. I wold rather drink giardia infected ground water.

            9 Replies
            1. re: pikawicca

              That may be the reaction of many people, but the fact that I had to look up the word 'giardia' might tend to place you in a range of people who would be more likely to agree with you.

              I don't personally like 2BC at all, and I haven't even tried it since right after it first appeared on TJs shelves, but I can't totally dismiss anything that has that big a customer base.

              1. re: Midlife

                KFC has a big "customer base." So what?

                1. re: pikawicca

                  All I'm sayin' is that anything that sells 400 million units in something like 5-7 years can't be dismissed simply as worse that 'giardia infected ground water'. From another perspective, at least all those people aren't drinking cheap beer. A certain % of them will develop a greater sensitivity and graduate to better wine if they can afford it.

                  1. re: Midlife

                    And as I said above - it's not all the same stuff. Any wine produced in that volume is going to vary. It's not like beer or hard liquor where you can get near-infinite amounts of raw materials and control every aspect of production. This is wine, there are only a certain amount of grapes available from any given vineyard, and no amount of blending can produce a consistent product in that quantity.

                    My guess is, a few batches really have been incredible (for the price) and most people who buy it can't tell the difference anyway.

                    1. re: BobB

                      <<"and most people who buy it can't tell the difference anyway.">>

                      THERE you go! That's really all that's needed to be said. And I don't mean that completely negatively.

                      Some of it was much better back at the beginning but now it's really more about meeting a basic need for a price. I think, too, that there's something going on in this where wine has such an upside of quality and social prestige that people need to convince themselves that they're OK at a level where they're comfortable (or they might be judged?). It's the other side to the 'at least they're drinking wine' point. BECAUSE they're drinking wine there's more of a need for justification than with beer or fast food.

                      But the real bottom line is still that they're happy with 2BC and, from a purely sensitivity capability, many really CAN'T tell the difference, while many don't feel the need to.

              2. re: pikawicca

                No you wouldn't....hangover's worse...

                1. re: WCchopper

                  Hangover's worse, but at least the initial taste is of clean, cold mountain spring water, not bad fermented grape juice.

                2. re: pikawicca

                  Giardia is found in surface water, not ground water.

                  1. re: pikawicca

                    Well, I might not have stated it that well, but I believe that we're close. At least for the giardia infectation, there is always Flagyl. I have yet to find a treatment for 2BC.

                    Hunt

                    1. re: ibstatguy

                      So........................ anyone who says they enjoy a wine that is $2 can't know what they're talking about?

                      As I said, I don't like 2BC, but I'll defend anyone's right to like it.

                      1. re: Midlife

                        if you'd ever had a glass of wine with me you'd know that my first rule is drink what you like so you and I agree on anyone's right to defend what they like. the question here, however, was why is 2BC "revered" (not necessarily a premise that I agree with). my answer was, however, my honest opinion. 2BC became a "hit" because of its price IMHO. had you paid closer attention to the question, you might have understood my answer.

                        1. re: ibstatguy

                          'Revered' was a word the OP chose to use to describe the defense of 2BC. I just don't think people defend 2BC only because it costs just $2.

                        2. re: Midlife

                          For so very many, that price-point (think that it's up to about US3.50 in the PHX market) is THE reason. However, there must be some, who DO enjoy it. At least that segment of their market has an outlet.

                          To paraphrase, " I might not agree with you, but I will defend, to the death, your right to your opinion... " It just happens to not be my opinion, but what do I know?

                          Hunt

                          PS - I rather think that your point is similar. It sells, so there has to be a market. They are making $, so their business plan has to be pretty sound. Is it for me? Not even close, and I would imagine the same is true for some others.

                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            As I said, I don't like it either. But this topic is about those people who DO say they like it, or at least defend it. I don't think it's only about the price or not wanting to be looked down upon. I've been exposed to enough wine drinkers (and I believe you have to) to know that what people like in wine covers such a broad range that there (almost mathematically) has to be a significant number of people who drink 2BC because they actually like it.

                            My take on this label has been pretty much that it has a lot of people drinking wine who might not otherwise. Some will stay with 2BC (or similar) and others will 'graduate' and learn to appreciate better wine. As an independent wine merchant (selling wine in the $9 to $125 market) I could (back then) bemoan the fact that a lot of those people might otherwise be my customers, but were taking the cheap road.......... or I could just be grateful that that they're not drinking beer and do my best to help them grow in wine taste when I had the chance.

                            I'm just a bit confused by your last point. I think I can appreciate their business model and success without appreciating their product. I've heard stuff about Fred Franzia that made my hair curl, and I wish he had found a way to make that many people appreciate a better quality product.

                            If you're making a case that one it's difficult to separate the qualitative and quantitative aspects of a business plan, I might agree with you. But, to do that, I think I'd also have to draw the same conclusion about McDonald's and Taco Bell. Disappointed in them....... maybe, but wouldn't say their business plans aren't sound.

                            Happy Thanksgiving.

                            1. re: Midlife

                              Midlife,

                              I appreciate your take on things, related to wines. I've never been close to retail, so that is an end of the specturm, that I have no direct knowledge of. Now, I know many in the business, at many different levels, and they share their thoughts. Still, I only have second and third-hand data, so I always appreciate reports from "the trenches."

                              As far as the last point is concerned, let's remove wine from the equation. My point is that when someone is very successful from a business perspective, they are doing something right, relating to their target audience. Let's take the shouting TV used car pitchman. For me, I mark this dealership up as a place that I would not go to, regardless if they had the only autos in Orange County, and I was afoot. Still, they must sell enough to tell them to keep doing this. I cannot argue with success, regardless of how I might see it. I am not in their demographic. Same for Bronco Wines. They are not marketing to me, but obviously enough people are being satisfied, at some level, that they are still in business and making some mone.

                              A business model does not need to play to everyone. So long as the businessperson has correctly identified their market, and sells to it, who am I to question? At the end of the day, it's about being able to open the doors tomorrow, and maybe paying the dividends to the stockholders, or to the owner.

                              I see great, free-standing, chef-driven restaurants closing. I see some lower-end chains flourishing. What's different? The food is (IMHO) so very much better in the former, but because of the market, the latter is doing well, and I am writing epitaphs for the former, and vowing to never darken the doors of the latter. Still, they are making money and the doors are open.

                              That's what I was referring to. Success, for a given market, cannot be denied. This does not make the product great, or even good, however, they are filling a perceived need by a large enough segment of the market.

                              Hunt

                        3. re: ibstatguy

                          I wouldn't say 2BC is "revered." Maybe people see it as reverse snobbism? Personally I don't care for it but if someone likes it, all the better for them because that just means they can enjoy a bottle of wine for a very modest price. Now the question is, let's say that this person loves 2BC because he or she has never tried anything else and just doesn't know any better. So you introduce them to more expensive wines to open their eyes, and that is just what happens - they like what they taste but then they keep spending more and more money on their quest to find something even better and as a result, get into financial problems. Would they have been better off just sticking with 2BC and not troubling their finances, or are they better off now that they have tasted "fine wine?" even though they can't afford it? Now some will answer that they could spend more within their budget and get better wine, but if they like 2BC and are in a blissful state as it is, then why move them out of it?

                          1. re: monkuboy

                            look, the thread start asked why is it so "revered", that is what I responded to. if you read my response above, I specifically noted that I did not necesarily agree with the premise. more over, did you note my comment that I think people should drink what they like?

                        4. It's not revered.

                          But it is what a lot of people know, and it's a wine that's drawn many people to wine who otherwise wouldn't be enjoying wine. There may be widespread appreciation for the value and the experience of 2BC wine, but I wouldn't call it reverence.

                          1. AFAIK nobody "reveres" 2BC. I think most of the backlash is not against people who have tasted the wine and don't care for it as against those wine snobs who vociferously declare that a $2 bottle of wine must be swill without having tried it.

                            Me, I'm a big fan of the stuff. Not for drinking; although I haven't had any that's terrible, none of it has been very good, either. But the syrah and sauvignon blanc are my go-to cooking wines.

                            As BobB noted, there's **huge** variation between batches, but not because TJs relabels different wineries' products. In fact, all the wine is made by Bronco from grapes it buys on the cheap. Those grapes come from all over, with an emphasis on the Central Valley. And they get turned into wine that gets tagged with a varietal label, but without much quality control or any regard for consistency.

                            If you're really interested, you could taste more 2BC and see if your impression changes. But the upside is pretty limited, so I'd recommend doing so only as you prepare to dump the bottle into a dutch oven full of short ribs...

                            20 Replies
                            1. re: alanbarnes

                              I've had 2BC before this tasting and thought it was marginally OK (as you said, for cooking it's usually OK), but this bottle (and one that I bought from a different TJs because I couldn't believe how bad it was) was just horrendous.

                              I was just surprised by people refusing to hear anything against it.

                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                Yeah, the stuff seems to bring out the irrational in people. Some are convinced that it's the nectar of the gods, while others are just as sure it's deadly poison.

                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                  "Some are convinced that it's the nectar of the gods..."

                                  It DID win a medal, you know. -wink-

                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                    Yes, a Charles Shaw Syrah won double gold at the California State Fair a couple of years back. The chief judge (an acquaintance of mine) says the bottle(s) submitted were really quite good - significantly better than any other 2BC he's tasted.

                                    My guess is the QC guys earmarked a batch for competition after noticing that it was better than the usual plonk that rolls out of their fermentation vessels. But I'm just cynical that way; it may have just been a happy accident.

                                    Like I said, I cook with the stuff. Haven't yet found anything so foul that it would ruin a pasta sauce. And every once in a while there's a surprisingly good bottle - more than good enough to drink (but only at home with no visitors present and the shades tightly drawn). Most of the time, though, it goes into ice cube trays for future cooking use.

                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                      "but only at home with no visitors present and the shades tightly drawn"

                                      funny.

                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                        I do hope you noted the sarcasm in my post.

                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                            Please email me. The address is in my profile.

                                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                                  Are you "guys" putting together a CH wine tasting? Does it have to be 2BC? Can't we do something with a few other wines?

                                                  Hunt

                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                              Alan,

                                              Are you sure about the varietal. My memory tells me that it was their Chard. Maybe they have multiple golds on multiple occasions?

                                              It was that double-gold, that prompted me to re-taste, and there were several threads here on those. Gotta' research, cause my memory is not what it once was - too much wine?

                                              Hunt

                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                A quick Google search shows that you're right. It was the Chardonnay that scored big at the '07 California State Fair; the Syrah won double gold at the International Eastern Wine Competition in '04.

                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                  You guys need to get Jason (zin1953) to chime in here with his thoughts on that California Fair win.

                                                    1. re: maria lorraine

                                                      Now, I have not read those thread (recently) completely, but did YOU also chime-in? You have had much to add to similar threads, and both Jason's, plus your's, have been greatly appreciated.

                                                      Hunt

                                                    2. re: Midlife

                                                      I agree. He and Maria Lorraine have offered up some great stories, and insights.

                                                      My experience has been with similar, but obviously at a much lower level.

                                                      In a few cases, I've have voted to withhold ANY awards, due to the offerings. That was never allowed, so some wines had to win. Regardless, in a few instances, I'd be happy to never taste any of the wines again.

                                                      Going back over a decade, and in another venue, judges of an annual Advertising Awards competition voted to NOT award any higher medals/awards, and stood up to say "nothing here deserves any award. Many similar markets are showing great creativity with similar budgets. Nothing here is worth being awarded." This took fortitude, but the judges stood together. Unfortunately, their message was lost on the ad agencies, who had submitted material to be judged. All talk was of getting better judges next year. Too bad for them. They were killing the messenger, and not listening to the reviews - their loss.

                                                      Hunt

                                                    3. re: alanbarnes

                                                      Alan,

                                                      Thanks for that info. Sometimes, I get confused as to some exact citation. The more Zin I drink, the more confused I become.

                                                      Take care,

                                                      Hunt

                                          2. re: alanbarnes

                                            Alan,

                                            Sorry that I did not read the whole thread, before commenting on Bronco. You covered that base, and well.

                                            Now, for me, the go-to cooking red is the Peachy Canyon Incredible Red, which is about 2.5x as expensive as the 2BC (now about US$3.50 in AZ), but much better. I can actually drink the remainder, as I cook.

                                            For a cooking white, I like the Groth Napa SB, and it's about 3x as expensive. Again, if we're cooking, we can actually enjoy drinking it, and if the wife has brought in some sushi, to tide us over, until the meal, it pairs well with most, even with the wasabe.

                                            Now, I am not a guy, who cooks with DRC's, even if we will be serving those with the meal. I am not foolish, but I do know what I like. I just do not like 2BC, even after several tastings of most varietals. Just me.

                                            Sorry to restate what you have already done a better job of stating.

                                            Hunt

                                          3. Every single bottle is different, so there's no way to speak about it in general. When I've visited friends around a Trader Joe's, I had bottles that were very good for the price, and bottles that were bad. But I've never had a Charles Shaw that was as bad as a Sutter Home cab, for example.

                                            I attended a barbecue at a friend's house in LA last summer, and one of her guests was the wife of a very wealthy and famous celebrity. She brought a bottle of Two Buck Chuck, and we drank it gladly. It was one of the good ones.

                                            1. people will defend cheap systems, whether it's food, wine, sneakers, whatever. if you try to point out that perhaps there is something actually very wrong when we can buy $2 wine or a $2 turkey or $2 sneakers, people flip out.

                                              1. Said it once, and I'll say it again, it's nice guest wine for people who don't appreciate the finer wines in life.

                                                Every year the Christmas house tour in our town walks down our street, and I will put decanters out with both chardonnay and cabernet. 500-1000 people I know walk down our street to look at the decorations, and to listen to the Christmas carolers. I don't know 95% of these people, so I have no problem pouring them a glass of 2BC. If I could afford it, I'd be pouring them Aubert or Kistler Chard and First Growth Bordeaux, but I can't.

                                                In the 4 years now we've been doing this, I have never had a complaint. Most of the passerbyers are just happy to be getting an alcoholic beverage. I've actually had a few people say, "Is that Charles Shaw? We love these wines." So to me, spending about $100 to please 500-1000 people is a small price to pay, and we don't mind doing it. Our friends however that come by get to drink whatever we're drinking! =)

                                                I will say that we use the chard for cooking quite often, as well as the cab. I'll also say that we'll bust out the sauvignon blanc, chard, and cab a lot later in the night after several other bottles. By that time, post of our friends palates are shot, and I'd rather open some swill, than say something like a Rivers-Marie cab or nice 2nd growth that will not be enjoyed. Just my 2 yen. -mJ

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: njfoodies

                                                  That is an interesting point you bring up, opening the cheap bottle later in the evening. Traditional wine lore says you move from white to red and lesser to greater as the evening progresses, but I've found, like you, that in some cases there comes a point where palates become jaded and bringing out the "house wine" is an appropriate move.

                                                  1. re: BobB

                                                    For me, it depends on how late in the evening the party will be going. Drinking from "best" to "worst" really amplifies the differences in quality making an inferior wine seem even worse. If it is going to be an "all nighter" I tend avoid pouring the best we have at any point in the night (at least that is the plan initially) knowing that there will be regret the next day as I sift through the recycling bin ! If we are going to host a dinner, I like to either drink the same wine all night (depending on the food) or maybe slightly improve within the varietal with each bottle.

                                                    1. re: TonyO

                                                      For us it depends on who the guests are, and the duration. I too hate the feeling the next morning of my generosity as the night progresses, and there have been times where all palates were shot, but we opened up something amazing just because. Sine Qua Non comes to mind.

                                                      Labor Day weekend we did a blind tasting with 8 people after already having 3 bottles between us. We all tasted 5 varietals blind and had to guess what they were. It was fun, but we popped an '02 Insignia after that, and I don't think many people truly got the enjoyment out of it that they could have. Not the first time something like that has happened, and vertainly not the last either... -mJ

                                                2. Franzia/Bronco sources their grapes where they can get a price, and doubtless has a number of other cost cutting measures that we'd just as soon not hear about. Pretty doubtful that they blend lots for consistency, so there may be some better than others.

                                                  I haven't had any Chuck of any "flavor" that was undrinkable (I've not tried the white Zin, which may be), but none was memorable either.

                                                  Revered? Who ya kiddin', Das?

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Akitist

                                                    You didn't see the e-mail I got. Only a couple of people commented in public. I got a dozen emails.

                                                  2. Wow ... I have to go outside ... the eau de wine snob is overwhelming.

                                                    I'll add this to the mix ... no wine under $10 is worth a damn so you might as well drink TBC. if on a budget.

                                                    I don't buy TBC that often reserving my cheap wine buying for Grocery Outlet. As others have noted you can get a really good bottle and I have had one or two undrinkable bottles. Either end of the spectrum is rare.

                                                    I'm the first to admit I know nothing about wine. I like a glass with dinner though.

                                                    I got weary of throwing $10 - $20 a bottle at stuff that wasn't so special. So my cheap wine quest.

                                                    That being said, I'm not the ignorant unwashed wine drinker that some of the comments in this thread seem to speculate about. I just save my wine dollars for restaurants with good wine programs. Then I have someone who really knows about wine selecting something really special.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                      gee, I seem to have missed the trashing that you are going on about. moreover, the consistent comments of numerous people on this board echo your last comment which is to find a good wine shop or restaurant and learn from someone that you are comfrotable with. there are plenty of ways to learn about inexpensive yet quality wines, this board being but one...

                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                        I could be very wrong here, but this stament is in question:

                                                        "the eau de wine snob is overwhelming."

                                                        I think that people are weighing-in with their personal tastes, and their personal experiences. Why they have developed these is not for you, or for me, to determine. People are talking about what turns them on, or off. Nothing more, and nothing less.

                                                        We do an annual "Slammer Chardonnay Quest," and the winner becomes the "house white" for the year. Once, this was for the "season," but we lived in Colorado, where one more often reached for a red, rather than a white. In AZ, it's "white season" all year long. Now, for these, we set a price-point, as we'll be buying maybe 12 cases over the year (in AZ). We give extra points for lower price - remember, about 12 cases. We'll do a "taste-off" of about two mixed cases. Even with the extra points for price, 2BC has never been in contention - never. That is our taste. We'd rather pay more, so long as we get more.

                                                        Now, in my example, we're only talking Chards, but my wife is a big fan. I am too, but am impressed more by some higher-end FR Chards, than she is. Still, I can enjoy a well-produced domestic Chard too, especially if we both agree. This is regardless of price, and the lower-priced Chards get those extra points - remember.

                                                        I think that you are casting stones at folk, who have different tastes. That does not make them at all snobbish - just different than the folk, who enjoy 2BC. It is as simple as that.

                                                        Hunt

                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                          so pleasant to have you weighing in on this; thanks Bill!

                                                          1. re: ibstatguy

                                                            Thanks. Kind words will get a reply! [Insert a big grin here.]

                                                            Interesting thread, and some interesting comments, so far. I hope that the OP is getting the responses that he/she was looking for.

                                                            Hunt

                                                      2. The only possible answer would come from the question: revered by whom?

                                                        I have yet to find a bottle that was remotely enjoyable. OK, some might give it points for the price, but if I could only afford what I have tasted, I'd go exclusively to beers, ales and stouts.

                                                        Sorry, I do not revere it. Maybe I have always had that one bad batch, but I have yet to find any that I like. Matter-of-fact, you'd have to pay me $10/glass to drink any.

                                                        Hunt

                                                        1. As I'm sitting here with a glass of CS Shiraz while reading this thread, I can't help but think how a similar discussion might take place on the beer forum. In that instance, someone might pose the question why Budweiser is so revered, and people like me would extol the virtues of our ales and stouts while likening Bud to the piss that it is. :D

                                                          Point being: it's all relative, so why belabor the issue? I don't know wine and am happy with Chuck. I know a guy who's into Pepsi and will tell you why it's superior to Coke, but there are others who are probably content with the supermarket brand of cola.

                                                          If Chuck is in fact "revered," it's only because those of us who don't know better can say "Hey! Here's a wine I like! ...And such a deal!!"

                                                          12 Replies
                                                            1. re: azveggieguy

                                                              I do agree. Now, I do feel that there is some media hype, but I could be wrong. If one likes it, I will never raise a word against them.

                                                              I will not bore this forum with my early wine experiences. Let's just say that some of those were not what I'd enjoy now. Most were not something that most here would enjoy. At the time, they filled a void, regardless of what that void was.

                                                              For me, these were the beginning of a ramp. Now, it was an uneven ramp and a rough ramp, but still a ramp. I do not care if anyone ever moves from 2BC, to something else. More for me, so long as my "favored" vintners stay in business, with people like me.

                                                              I hold nothing against anyone, who likes wines that I do not get - now. Maybe 40 years ago, I would have?

                                                              Hunt

                                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                i want to discuss the "ramp" idea Bill brings up. many people in the thread have offered the opinion that it's a good thing for these wines to be available, and be so cheap, because they presume that people who otherwise wouldn't spend money on wine will buy a cheaper wine, and then "move up" to finer and or more expensive products. several folks have stated that otherwise people might be drinking beer. setting aside whether or not wine=good and beer=bad, as implied--i don't think that it's a valid premise for us to think that access to cheap items of questionable quality leads to connoissiership for folks later on. for example i don't think the average person who checks out the latest danielle steel novel from the library is in the process of getting his/her phd in literature, i don't think that someone picking up a case of mgd lite or a 40oz colt 45 at the corner lq will be posting on beeradvocate in a couple of years, and likewise, i don't think someone who picks up 2bc is preparing their palate for finer vintages. 97/100 times, the doofus move is exactly what it looks like.

                                                                additionally there is a problem with thinking that zero money=zero taste. poor folks can't spend tons of money on luxury items, true-- but it doesn't mean they will necessarily elect to buy a $5 bottle of perfume because hey that's affordable-- they know it's cheap and it stinks. many would rather splurge on a teeny chanel bottle and hoard it for very special occasions. as a bartender for 10 years i noted that poorer folks often tended to buy more expensive liquors while some of the customers who were getting the cheapest possible 2fer1 special were the folks who had lots of money in the bank. if you take any given person out of a yugo and place them into a mercedes, that person, regardless of sophistication or income level, will be able to list in 30 seconds at least 10 improvements in their experience of the luxury version of the product (automobile), probably before it is even necessary to turn the key in the ignition.

                                                                when someone's only experience with any product is at the ultra-cheap level of quality, that's when you get people who say they don't like the product. this is a very *reasonable* response. if someone has only experienced folger's or crappier coffee, it's not unreasonable that the person would say: "i don't like coffee." if someone has only sampled black label, lone star, mickeys, and camo-- s/he might say "i don't like beer." if someone has only sampled a few glasses of 2bc, i think anyone would say "i don't like wine" is a perfectly reasonable response. 2bc probably does more to stunt the growth of wine culture than to expand it, because folks might erroneously think that that 2bc is what wine is, and refuse to spend any money on it.

                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                  Alan,

                                                                  It would be tough to chart, but I'd be interested to see how the US wine industry charts its growth, or decline, since Charles Shaw. One would have to weight many factors, like the economy, but I'd love to hear from one of the wine industry "numbers crunchers," and how they feel.

                                                                  Now, I started with plonk - commercial plonk. I turned my back for imported ales, beers and stouts, long before they were readily available.

                                                                  Then, one night I had a catharsis, and the rest is history. This epiphany had zero to do with cheap wines. Matter of fact, this was anything but. All of the lights finally went on, and I nursed my glass of Pomerol, waxing poetic, before I had consumed too much.

                                                                  After some years of trying, Dr. Frankenstein's monster breathed for the first time - "he lives, he lives!"

                                                                  For me, tank cars of plonk could not do the trick. I needed to experience the right bottle, with the right friends, and with the right meal. I signed the "deal" that night, and have never looked back.

                                                                  Just my experience.

                                                                  Hunt

                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                    i'd also like to see that sort of info. it would be tough to adjust the data set to reflect the general growth of the industry, but it would still be very interesting. certainly, the consensus on this thread for the most part (or stated by multiple posters) seems to be: "i don't drink charles shaw myself-- but i don't fault folks that like it-- nevertheless, i *use* this wine to perform the following special function: a), b), or c). ;-P

                                                                    i like your story of your evening with a glass of Pomerol, after many experiences with plonk had left you flatly uninterested in exploring the wine world. that pretty much is how it happens for most folks, i think, Bill. i can't tell you how many scores of folks have enlisted me to help out their friend or relative who "doesn't like wine" come around to discovering wine that is enjoyable for them (at whatever price point). typically it's someone who has only had plonk. you sit them down at the bar, ask a little bit about their tastes, they tell you emphatically that they hate red wine (bitter, vinegary) or hate white wine (sweet, saccharine), or hate all wine. you give them a *nice* glass--usually something that retails in the $12- $20 range by the glass--and you see them screwing up their face in preparation for taking medicine :) ----- & then they *like* it. or they say, with surprise, oh my goodness, that they can *drink* this, and that it tastes interesting to them. you give them a little bite of food or some cheese to nibble while they drink their wine. you show the label and write down a couple of names for them and off they go. and then 9/10 times they branch out and taste different wines, because they now have the curiosity to try to build on a positive experience with wine, and they begin enjoying their special occasion gatherings at home more. . . and food becomes more delicious. . . and eating out becomes more enjoyable too. isn't that what good wine is supposed to do for quality of life? i think so. but people who only drink plonk never get there. they get disappointing off flavors and a headache-- which doesn't make anybody want to explore, enjoy, or experience wine.

                                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                                      We often host dinners, and in our house, these always revolve around wine. Many times we have guests, who are just like your subjects. I provide other beverages for them, but manage to get some light pours in front of them. Usually, I'll spend just a bit more time talking about that particular wine (basically to get THEIR curiosity up a bit), and soon they do try a taste. I've yet to have one guest, who left without writing down the wine, or taking the bottle so they could show the label to their wineshop personnel.

                                                                      Hey, it once worked on me, and I am very glad that it did. It still seems to work, even today, decades later.

                                                                      Thanks for sharing,

                                                                      Hunt

                                                                    2. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                      As far as how Bronco has affected the industry as a whole, there are a lot of factors to the equation. I'm sure that somebody else has a better grasp on the macro aspects of grape growing and wine production in California, but here's my take...

                                                                      Wine consumption in the US peaked in the mid-80s. Jug wines gave way to the "fighting varietals," and all of a sudden everyman knew how to pronounce cabernet sauvignon, even if it was a suffix to "Glen Ellen" or "Sutter Home."

                                                                      That led to a grape shortage, and prices skyrocketed. Farmers everywhere (especially in California) ripped out almond orchards, tomato fields, and whatever else was taking up real estate and planted vines. Which, once they matured, resulted in an oversupply of grapes.

                                                                      Enter Bronco Wine Company. The Franzia brothers figured out that they could buy grapes really, really cheap and make sound - if uninteresting - wine for almost nothing. So they did.

                                                                      So I'd venture to say that Bronco doesn't have any effect on the wine industry. Rather, the success of the wine industry created an opportunity for Charles Shaw wines. Maybe the low-price wines will convince people to partake of the grape now or in the future, but the availability of 2BC is a function of the availability of cheap grapes.

                                                                      As long as Bronco can pay enough that growers will keep growing grapes instead of other crops, wines like 2BC will continue to be sold. If the folks around Lodi figure out that they can make more money growing tomatoes than grapes, then the grape supply will go down and wine prices will go up.

                                                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                        Alan,

                                                                        Interesting observation. I'd say that it is likely to be pretty sound. Now, some of the direct competitors of Bronco might see a few things differently, but (other than some naming issues), I think that many winemakers would agree.

                                                                        Basically, what you describe gave rise to the négociant, long ago. Many have prospered, produce some very, very good product, fill a void in segments of the market, and have even expanded to become vignerons (check the plural, as it is probably incorrect). I regularly purchase the products of many, and enjoy them.

                                                                        Thanks for stating your observations,

                                                                        Hunt

                                                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                          alanbarnes,

                                                                          If I understand your next-to-last paragraph correctly, you're saying that Bronco filled a need and so it didn't really impact the wine industry? I'm not an industry expert either, but it seems to me that Bronco likely kept a lot of grape producers from going out of business and may have, to some degree, kept lots of acreage from being plowed under for some other crop or none. Today, Bronco is one of the larger vineyard operators in the state @ 35,000 acres, so I think they've had an impact.

                                                                          Granted............... they could not have become successful without a demand, but I have to think their 400 million bottles of low-end wine have had a serious impact on the business of their lower-end competitors. How much of the continuing demand for 2BC is from growth of the niche price market they pretty much created would be interesting to calculate.

                                                                          This is all an intriguing subject that goes way beyond the reasons any consumers love or hate them.

                                                                          1. re: Midlife

                                                                            You make a good point. Just because the company's wines are a product of oversupply doesn't mean they don't have a dramatic impact on the industry. Especially their competitors at lower price points.

                                                                      2. re: soupkitten

                                                                        Refusing to spend the money is part of the issue, particularly when one’s palate is not sensitized to quality. As a barbarian in this thread, I’ll admit to balking at higher prices when CS is available. Nevertheless, I’ve been “pushed” upward by a couple of factors.

                                                                        (1) I moved to a city without a TJ and, although I drive to one a hundred miles away and haul back a couple cases of Chuck, I also see what Costco has to offer and have decided that Yellowtail Shiraz ain’t half bad (some of you are probably groaning), so I’m opening myself up to other possibilities.

                                                                        (2) My spouse and I love quality ales and have come to recognize that, if we’re spending $10-12 on an evening’s hop-based refreshment (and I’m talking a couple bottles each, max, at home, and not counting forays to the brew pub), there’s no need to avoid spending that much on a bottle of wine that we may not even polish off in one sitting. We see much irony in the fact that a 22-oz bottle of barleywine can cost more than twice what we pay for a bottle of Chuck ($3). Yet wines priced over $10 still produce a knee-jerk reaction, because not only is the refined palate not there, neither is the perception of a need to cultivate it.

                                                                        Far from being put off by this particular product from sampling the low end of it, as soupkitten suggests, we’re pleased with ourselves that we can enjoy it without spending a lot - and are even open to spending a little more. But not a lot. :-)

                                                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                                                          Agreeing with alanbarnes here.

                                                                          I have to note that I have been in the wine industry (retail) and find two issues in your statement.

                                                                          "setting aside whether or not wine=good and beer=bad, as implied" - For me, anyway, "beer=bad" in only one implication and not the one I mean. As one in the industry, it's a business comment to say "at least they're drinking wine, not beer". There are lots of great beers and I would support the same 'ramp' thesis for beer. But I am in the wine biz.

                                                                          And..... I don't think most of us looking at this issue are defining the growth possibility as being from 2BC to "connoisseurship". All I think we're saying is that many people start at a rather low level in something and learn, over time, to discriminate more carefully. I'm happy if someone moves up from 2BC to a $5-$7 wine of better quality, if they can. It would be nice if there were real 'quality' wines at $2, but I've never found one. While many might insist that $5-$7 is too low to find 'quality', I feel you can find 'well made' wine at that price. It's not great, but 'great' can be relative to the person tasting.

                                                                    3. I can honestly say I know of NO ONE who "reveres" Charles Shaw wines, unless it;s perhaps Fred Franzia. I know people who *drink* 2BC; I know people who *serve* 2BD; I know people who *buy* 2BC. But I don't know anyone who "loves" it or who places it on some pedestal of reverence.

                                                                      Generally speaking, I've probably tasted close to 100 different bottlings of Charles Shaw since Bronco acquired the rights to the label. (Don't ask me why.) I've probably had four or five that I thought were "good," period -- certainly no more than that. The majority were "OK for the price," and a sizable number were crap -- regardless of price.

                                                                      It is not a brand I recommend to people, or think of favorably.

                                                                      Cheers,
                                                                      Jason