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Tag Archives: Two-buck Chuck

Winebits 316: Two-buck Chuck, Pennsylvania, Kickstarter

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Winebits 316: Two-buck Chuck, Pennsylvania, KickstarterBut what about the terroir? Ben Robinson at The Thrillist challenges a sommelier to taste Two-buck Chuck to find out “which bottles are totally palatable and even enjoyable. …” It’s an intriguing exercise, and most of the eight wines do well enough (as regular visitors here know). The annoying bit is the post’s snarkiness, because this is cheap wine and it certainly can’t be approached seriously. The most interesting? That the sommelier could only identify the varietal in four of the eight wines. If someone whose entire wine reason for being is baffled by what’s in the glass, what does that say about how indifferent the winemaker is to varietal character? And, more importalty, given Two-buck Chuck’s popularity, it demonstrates that the producer understands that varietal isn’t as important as price with consumers. Not that I’ve ever argued either of those points.

Finally, after all this wait? Pennsylvania’s state store system, in which the government owns the liquor stores, may finally come to an end. That’s the optimistic reading of this report from Morning call newspaper website: “A suitable deal has eluded lawmakers for the last three years — really for decades — as other Republican-led liquor privatization efforts have fizzled. … Republican House Majority Leader Mike Turzai said he hopes to have a liquor reform bill passed and on [the governor's] desk before the governor’s Feb. 4 budget address.” If Pennsylvania reforms its state state system, that could be the first domino to fall in reform plans elsewhere, including grocery store wine sales in New York. Which means, as the story also notes, that it probably won’t be as easy to change the Pennsylvania laws as everyone hopes.

Another wine book: Congratulations to Alder Yarrow, the long-time wine blogger at Vinography, who raised $24,200 on Kickstarter for the publication of his new book , “The Essence of Wine.” That beat his goal by more than $6,000. Welcome to the club, Alder. The more I see this going on, the more convinced I am that self-publishing, using some sort of crowd-sourcing, is the future of the book business for those of us who aren’t Stephen King.

The Five Day, $3 Wine Challenge: The results

$3 wineThe good news is that the five $3 wines that I drank with dinner last week were mostly OK, and the horror stories that I heard proved to be – for me, anyway – unfounded.

Which is also the bad news. Most wine, even $10 wine, is going to taste reasonably consistent from vintage to vintage. Yes, these wines were OK – and a couple were more than that – but that’s no guarantee they’ll taste that way again if I do this again next year. And, unfortunately, none of them made me jump in the air and fall back down with excitement, ready to re-do the $10 Hall of Fame. Dull is probably a better adjective.

More details on the challenge, as well as my analysis and a few suggestions for the retailers who sell these wines are after the jump:

The Five Day, $3 Wine Challenge

$3 wineThe Wine Curmudgeon talks a good game when it comes to cheap wine, but does he follow through? This question, always important, is even more critical with the upcoming publication of The Cheap Wine Book (just a couple of weeks away). Hypocrisy has no place in what I’m trying to do.

Hence The Five Days of $3 Wine Challenge, which starts tonight and runs through this week. Each night, I’ll drink a $3 wine with dinner and attempt to answer the question: Can a wine drinker live on really cheap wine? Are the claims made by producers like Fred Franzia and the various anti-critics true, that most of us can’t tell the difference and that it doesn’t matter if we can?

No one supports cheap wine more than I do. But being cheap isn’t enough – quality matters, and my experience over the past decade of drinking very cheap wine is that the quality of these wines is often lacking. So we’ll put that to the test this week with these five wines, all chardonnays and all purchased in Dallas:

Two-buck Chuck ($2.99), the Trader Joe’s private label that was the first and remains the most famous of the very cheap wines. It’s a California wine from the 2012 vintage.

• Three Wishes ($2.99), the Whole Foods private label. It carries an American appellation, which means it’s non-vintage and at least three-quarters of the grapes used to make it were grown in the U.S.

• Winking Owl ($2.89) from Aldi but that may be available elsewhere. Also American and non-vintage.

• Cul-de-Sac ($2.96), a private label for Central Market, the high-end chain owned by Texas’ H-E-B, one of the largest privately held companies in the country. Also American and non-vintage.

Oak Leaf ($2.97), the Walmart private label. Also American and non-vintage.

Why chardonnay? To give the wines the benefit of the doubt, since chardonnay is the easiest cheap wine to make well. And I won’t pair the wines with anything that would show them up – no cream sauces or haute French cuisine.

I’ll post the results of the challenge next Monday, but you can keep up with the day-to-day action by following me on Twitter or checking out the Wine Curmudgeon Facebook page.

Each wine uses the same kind of bottle – light and without a punt (the hollow in the bottle’s bottom). And all but the Two-buck Chuck have the same foil and foil design, which isn’t surprising since each is apparently made by The Wine Group, one of the Big Six and whose brands include Cupcake.

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