Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Two Buck bomb: Chuck Chard best in state

By Jessica Yadegaran
Wednesday, July 11th, 2007 at 3:32 pm in Uncategorized.

Stop the presses. Er, make that the blogging tool. At the recent California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition, Charles Shaw’s 2005 Chardonnay was named the best in the state. Yes, it beat out about 350 other Chards from every price point.

That’s right C-heads, good old Two Buck ($1.99, actually) Chuck. I thought the whole Chuck model was to introduce people — young people who don’t have a lot of money — to wine, and once they realize it’s something they can have on their table every night and not just for special occasions, they would move up, to say, a $6 bottle of Bogle.

But no. It continues to sell. In fact, the exclusive Trader Joe’s line accounted for a whopping 8 percent of wines sold in California last year. That’s crazy! Chuck, released by vintner Fred Franzia, just celebrated its fifth anniversary and 300 millionth bottle. It’s like the Big Mac of wine!

I can see why people are calling it the Judgment of California. A penny for Grgich’s thoughts. And I have to agree with Laurie Daniel of the San Jose Mercury News. I bet the reason it won is because wine judges, like critics, taste, vote and probably pee in opinionated herds.

Oaky, butter bomb Chardonnays have been out for almost five years. Younger California winemakers keen on the millennial palate have been making crisp, fresh, fruity and food-friendly Chards for a while now. They’re certainly not complex, but they sell, because they’re cheap and have nifty marketing and bright funky animals on their labels.

Wine judges have to be oh-so-cool and up on these sorts of trends and industry fluctuations. Another reason Chuck could’ve won is their lack of consistency. While I’m not too familiar with their Chardonnay, I can say that, bottle to bottle, their reds are totally off.

I recall loving a bottle of the Cabernet in college, then getting a headache off it the second day. A Merlot was practically a different wine – lush, silky – the third night I drank it. And the first Thanksgiving that they released the Gamay Beaujolais, my friend Jenny and I split a case, we liked it so much. The second year it tasted like Robitussin.

Point made?

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