Cathy Bussewitz with the Press Democrat points out that for the past 10 years, shoppers at Trader Joe’s stores in California have paid just $1.99 for a bottle of Charles Shaw shiraz or cabernet sauvignon, earning the nickname “Two-Buck Chuck” for its pleasing low price.
Now the new price is $2.49. But as Cathy notes, most shoppers outside a Trader Joe’s store in Santa Rosa said the wine is still a good value at $2.49.
The Charles Shaw brand was able to maintain such low prices for so long in part because its parent company, Bronco Wine Co., owns 45,000 acres of vineyard land, said Harvey Posert, spokesman for Bronco.
Posert claims it helps the company ride out wild fluctuations in grape prices like those the industry has seen in recent years.
“If there’s one grape too many, the price dips,” Posert said. “If there’s one grape too few, the price zips up. In the sense of being the largest grape grower, Bronco can ride many of these ups and downs.
“But there were bad crops in 2010 and 2011, and that certainly impacted the industry,” he said.
Even so, the retail price is set by Trader Joe’s, Posert said. A display case in the store’s wine aisle labels Charles Shaw as Trader Joe’s best-selling wine. The brand sold about 5 million cases last year, Posert said.
“In general, our retail prices change only when our costs change,” Alison Mochizuki, director of public relations for Trader Joe’s, said.
“We’ve held a $1.99 retail price for 11 years. Quite a bit has happened during those years and the move to $2.49 allows us to offer the same quality that has made the wine famous the world over.”
“My friends all like it,” said Virginia Schrock, 86, of Santa Rosa. “Nobody sticks up their nose if you serve ‘Two-Buck Chuck.’ ”
But Cathy claims many shoppers in Wine Country have avoided the brand because it’s too cheap for their tastes.
“You can’t really take it to a party where people know wine,” said Barbara Levinson, 63, of Santa Rosa. “I have a lot of friends in the wine business, so they’re kind of particular. Snobby.”
But in other states and some East Coast markets where the same wine sells for $2.99 a bottle, it’s known as “Three-Buck Chuck.”
Nevertheless, Cathy says for some California customers, paying more than $2 for Charles Shaw wine will never feel right.
Let’s face it, “Two-Buck Chuck” was barely drinkable at $1.99, and even more undrinkable at $2.49. But you can still add it when cooking spaghetti sauce for a tangy zip.