This past week entertainment website Thrillist published a interesting look at the myth and legend of wine at Trader Joe’s. The article by Natalie O’Neill included interviews with some of the key players throughout the years
How Trader Joe’s Wine Became Cheaper Than Bottled Water
It might sound insane, but there’s a decent bottle of wine out there that costs less than some bottles of water.
That’s been the gimmick of Charles Shaw, aka “Two Buck Chuck,” which hit the shelves at Trader Joe’s in January 2002. The wine’s $1.99 price tag, simple off-white label, and saccharine flavor, closer to grape juice than wine, sparked a collective freakout among American bargain hunters. It flew in the face of the wine world’s snobbery; it was an everyperson’s bottle of wine.
For years, there’s been more legend than truth in the story of how it remains so inexpensive. Word on the street was that Shaw had slashed the price to spite his ex-wife, who owned half of his Napa Valley winery. Others claimed branches, dead birds, and insects were fermented as filler along with the grapes to keep costs down. Chuck Shaw himself — who went broke, sold the brand, and disappeared from the limelight decades ago — never quite set the record straight.
To get to the bottom of it, we tracked down a half-dozen insiders from the early days of the winery, including the reclusive man behind the label, who now lives alone in a Chicago high-rise and says he’s poised for a comeback with a new wine brand. The upshot? None of the lore is exactly true — but the real story is just as juicy.