Saturday, August 04, 2007

Don't chuck this chardonnay!

I was amazed to see that the 2005 Charles Shaw Chardonnay recently won double gold and Best Chardonnay at the California State Fair. That's not bad for a wine that sells for $1.99 is California and $2.99 up here in Washington (hence the nickname "2-buck Chuck").

The wine is only sold at Trader Joe's - a small grocery chain we love going to. I'd expect most customer's won't start buying more Chuck

The article on Avenue Vine goes into some depth, and say that the State Fair judging panel is slightly different to most wine competitions, which might explain why Charles Shaw did so well:

Since the state fair uses wine professionals as judges and the wines are tasted blind, the results stand on their own. Some 270 2005 Chardonnays were evaluated, so Two-Buck had plenty of competition. Still, I’m wondering if this bottling of Two-Buck is really that good. Or whether, more likely, that this is a result of a clean, fruity, non-oaked Chardonnay that has enough appeal to win the approval of a panel of judges? [...]

The California State Fair competition is dismissed by some critics as representing broad-based consumer tastes rather than the palates of true wine connoisseurs. But Pucilowski, who has organized the competition for more than two decades, said he draws judges from a number of professions, including winemakers and restaurant owners.

There’s no question that for many critics, too many Chardonnays are too oaky and there are questions about whether the wines are true to their appellations. Or whether, in the extreme, all Chardonnays taste alike, in which case it’s not only conceivable that Two-Buck could emerge a winner. It did.

If you’re wondering why this matters, well, here’s why. Think what you may about a $1.99 wine, but Two-Buck is impacting the market. It has sold 300 million bottles in five years and it continues to put downward pressure on wine prices, and at the end of the day, that’s great news for wine drinkers.

It's also interesting to note that the Bronco Wine Company (which makes Charles Shaw wines and a lot of others) is based, not in Napa, but in Calfornia's Central Valley. Apparently most of California's grapes are grown here, and there are many wineries - perhaps it's worth planning a wine tour to contrast with Napa :)

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