Sunday, August 21, 2011

Charles Shaw versus Three Wishes: the battle of the $2 wines.

Today was the Rave in the Cave, the cheap wine throw down between Trader Joe's and Whole Foods.

Trader Joe's started selling Charles Shaw in 2002. With grapes grown on the central coast in California, 6 million cases sell per year at a $7.2 million/yr. profit for Bronco Wine Company who bought the label from Charles Shaw after he got a divorce and moved to Chicago to work for a healthcare software company.

Whole Foods, aka Whole Paycheck, has apparently decided they wanted a chunk of that seven million dollars, and has stepped up competition by offering Three Wishes Wine beginning around the holidays last year, though I only noticed it last week. With vines planted in 2000, Three Wishes is in Tasmania and is in its fourth vintage.

Trader Joe's Merlot and Three Wishes Merlot went head-to head today, and the five people who tried them were aligned 100% in their assessment of the two.

Trader Joe's had an easy peel off foil.

Yes, I'm a cork challenged. That aside, Three Wishes went with a non-cork cork, very environmentally PC these days. (You can read more about that here.) Additionally, Three Wishes, on its website, states, "We are in a five year program to grow wine according to Organic principles, with "minimalist" viticultural pesticide and herbicide practices used in past vintages."

Before tasting the wine, I asked the tasters which wine they'd be less embarrassed to bring to a party, and everyone agreed "2-Buck Chuck" has in image problem, a negative connotation, and the stigma of cheapness that hasn't yet caught up with Three Wishes. Izzy offered a re-designed label might help the Charles Shaw.

After tasting the wine...everyone agreed the Charles Shaw tasted better. It had a deeper ruby color and it was more complex. The Three Wishes was fruitier in nose and flavor, but was thin and lacked presence.

But Three Wishes has the organic, corkless thing going for it, and at 71 cents a wish (tax included), Whole Foods customers might forgive the tradeoff.