What am I missing about 2.5-buck Chuck?

Look, I’ll be honest: For a variety of reasons, most nights I drink relatively inexpensive white wine (my system doesn’t get along well with red), mostly chardonnay. I get a lot of my wines from Trader Joe’s and Grocery Outlet, and a lot of those from Trader Joe’s are clearly produced by Bronco, the same company that produces Charles Shaw (“Two Buck Chuck” in California, “Three Buck Chuck” in less enlightened states–but it’s up to $2.49 in California now.) My wife keeps Purple Moon on hand as a reliable little wine; my most common repeat wine is Santa Barbara Landing. Both, based on UPC codes, are from Bronco. (Both cost $3.99 in California.)

But the last time I tried Charles Shaw, I wasn’t impressed. Oh, like most Bronco wines, it didn’t have the usual “cheap wine” flaws–it was cleanly made and entirely drinkable. But when compared to wines costing a mere $2 more…I was willing to spend the extra $2.

Then my favorite consumer magazine, the one you can’t quote in ads and that only runs in-house ads, did a “summer whites” review. And Charles Shaw’s 2011 chardonnay(which I hadn’t tried) was one of the eight Very Good wines, along with Bogle (which I like quite a bit when it’s on sale) and a few others, including a $23 Sonoma-Cutrer and a $29 Frank Family.

So I decided to give it another shot. I had the usual two glasses with dinner last night; my wife had enough of a taste to suit her. I’ll have most of the rest this evening.

And, well, compared to $3.99 and $4.99 chardonnays, and even $5 to $7 chardonnays (on sale)…I think 2.5-buck Chuck is a little overpriced for what it is. It was clean but harsh, and really not very interesting.

So what is it about 2.5-buck Chuck that I’m missing? Yes, I know, it got a Double Gold at one commercial wine tasting, and it’s beaten some Napa chards in tastings. (I’m not a great fan of Napa chards, by the way–even if I was willing to spend $15-$25, I find Sonoma, Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez, Monterey, Mendocino and Lake County wines all more interesting, at least for real-world prices. That’s me.) But I just don’t get it.


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