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The Two-buck Chuck gold medal fallout

The Two-buck Chuck gold medal falloutTwo-Buck Chuck, the most notorious cheap wine of all, won three gold medals at a California wine competition last week, and the cyber-ether went wild. One member of the Winestream Media tweeted that the result proved that state fair wine competitions were worthless. Another left a comment on a blog, which had defended the medals, taking exception and implying that the competition had been rigged. And then there was this from a winemaker: “Makes one wonder what the ‘experts’ are drinking or smoking.”

All of which demonstrated the Wine Curmudgeon’s favorite adage about wine: That people who claim to be experts don’t have to taste a wine to know that it isn’t any good. More, after the jump:

This dustup would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. Why would normally sane people, most of whom are reasonably knowledgeable about wine, be so angry about this?

Because Jeff, you idiot, Charles Shaw wines SUCK!!!!!

This sentiment, about Two-buck Chuck in particular and often about all cheap wine, usually carries the day despite any evidence to the contrary. The wines that won the golds were judged by winemakers, so we can assume the judges were qualified. The wines were judged blind, which reduces the chances of a fix, unless there was a vast conspiracy involving the producer and the competition. And, most importantly, the judges tasted the wine. How can we argue with that?

Because Jeff, you idiot, Charles Shaw wines SUCK!!!!!

Perhaps. But as one of the few wine writers who regularly writes about and reviews Two-buck Chuck, that approach is the wine writing equivalent of throwing the baby out with the bath water. Sometimes, the wines taste like the mass-produced, corporate plonk that they are. And sometimes, they’re quite tasty, whether it’s an accident of winemaking, better quality grapes, or the phase of the moon. How can anyone know unless they taste the wines?

Because Jeff, you idiot, Charles Shaw wines SUCK!!!!!

Which leads us to the real reason for all of that cyber-ether unhappiness – that Fred Franzia’s Bronco Wine Co. makes Two-buck Chuck, and the Winestream Media sees Franzia as perhaps the most evil person in the wine business. The reasons are many, and include the fact that Franzia has no use for the Winestream Media and reminds them of this at every opportunity. He is the small child who continually flicks the nose of his dog, and the dog doesn’t have enough sense to walk away.

Consider that there is almost never this sort of outrage when similar corporate wines, like Barefoot (owned by E&J Gallo), Cupcake (owned by The Wine Group), or Little Black Dress (owned by Fetzer) win gold medals. Which they do, all the time. That’s because their owners don’t say things like: “The only thing they have in Napa that’s different … is 400 public relations people. …”

Franzia doesn’t make wine for the romance. He makes it to make money. And that’s something the Winestream Media can never forgive him for. Because Jeff, you idiot, Charles Shaw wines SUCK!!!!!

10 Responses to The Two-buck Chuck gold medal fallout

  1. Well, I suppose I’m a member of the Mainstream Media and I’m also a big fan of Fred Franzia. He brings affordable wine to the people which is something we should celebrate.

  2. Dave Hamel says:

    At whatever the price-point, it seems like having satisfied customers and a profitable business are worthy goals. Many thanks to Fred Franzia and his business plan.

  3. winemgt@earthlink.net' John Anderson says:

    I’m going to assume that the “hydraulics” were honest, i.e. really was blind, etc. We don’t know the other wines in each flight. Nor do we know if wines appeared more than once in each flight, i.e. if Shaw was both A3 and A7. In a larger sense, though, I think it shows how elastic “taste” is. The public today gets wines –including expensive wines– that wouldn’t have made anybody’s tongue hard 15-20 years go. Today’s wines strike me as overly alcoholic and harsh, especially reds. Whites often practically tell you they’ve been oak chipped; there’s nothing subtle about them. Given that environment, Charles Shaw might come as a form of relief to lots of people.

  4. rba05@sbcglobal.net' Hittntheroad says:

    The only question is this: will that exact wne blend be available to the public in most bottles of Chuck? Or…somehow…did a ‘special edition’ blend get bottled and sent to the competition? No one will ever know…

  5. Tom_merle says:

    I agree with this column and the comments. Nevertheless, as Hittintheroad noted, how do we know that the wine submitted to the competition is the same wine that is purchased off the shelves of Trader Joe’s given Fred’s part shenanigans?
    Grumpus

  6. relaxeau@earthlink.net' Kurt Burris says:

    I would imagine that every iteration of Chuck gets tasted by the wine making panel. Perhaps the better ones are singled out to be used for competitions. I can state that there is considerable inconsistency within any given vintage of different varietals due to the number of lots produced (I havee friends that work at TJs and love to bring Chuck over.) This makes me a non buyer, but I’ll try it. If it’s good, it gets drunk. If it’s bad it makes fine sangria..

  7. krusewine@aol.com' Thomas Kruse says:

    Good for Fred Franzia! He offers the wine consuming public terrific value for their wine dollar. Being in the wine business I have to appreciate how small the profit there is on a case for Franzia.
    I am always amazed that other vintners are able to “block” Charles Shaw out of their minds.
    It’s almost like he doesn’t exist to the other wine producers. If someone asks me about the wine I tell them you can’t beat the deal. If you want a well made, no defects, good table wine then it is the best thing going.

  8. lwvineyard@aol.com' Roger King says:

    Charles Shaw wines do not SUCK. They are likely cleaner than many high priced wines, likely clean to a flaw, which makes them pretty dull and boring with Central Valley fruit. But Suck, not really, just inexpensive clean wine. Want a bottle of wine that sucks, try a $150 bottle of tannic over alc Cab that tastes like an oak tree.

  9. Jeff Siegel says:

    Thanks to all for the comments, and especially to Mr. Heimoff. Not often we get a big deal guy like him around here.
    Kurt Burris said it best. Sometimes the wines are good, sometimes they aren’t, and quality control isn’t what Bronco does best with these wines.
    The one thing that surprises me, as I go through the Internet, the comments here and on the blog’s Facebook page, is the idea that Bronco would submit a faked-up wine. That’s a lot trouble to go to to win a medal that’s not going to make all that much difference in the millions of cases Two-buck Chuck sells every year. Yes, these things happen, but usually when the stakes are much higher.

  10. caseycareybrown@gmail.com' Casey says:

    I don’t know anything about wine, as I just stumbled over here from twitter, but wanted to say hello. I’ve had Charles Shaw wine on occasion but find that I get headaches from it so I don’t drink it much. This is very interesting, though. Thanks for this piece!

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