Budget Wine Smackdown: Two-Buck Chuck vs. Fresh & Easy Wines

— by Caroline on Crack

The tasters
If you’re a budget wine drinker, chances are that you’re already more than familiar with Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw wines, better known as Two-Buck Chuck as it’s good wine that only costs $1.99. But it now seems grocery store, Fresh & Easy, known for high-quality foods at budget prices is also offering great wine for low prices. Nope, not for $2 but at least for under $5. And they’re wines not just from California like CS is but rather Italy, Australia, Argentina and Spain; some are even award winners.

I decided to conduct a blind wine tasting pitting Two-Buck Chuck’s Chardonnay (which received 98 points, a double gold, with accolades of Best of California and Best of Class from the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition) and Cabernet Sauvignon against Fresh & Easy’s own award-winning Chard and Cab. All were 2007s.

Here are the stats of the F&E contenders:

  • Vista Point Chardonnay, California, $1.99 — Bronze medal winner at the San Francisco International Wine Competition

  • Northwood Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $3.99 — Silver medal winner at Los Angeles State Fair

With the help of my friends estarLA, the Delicious Life, Tiny Nancer, Chris and Beth — none of us wine experts by any means but we do think good wine is yummy — we found out just who made the best budget wine.

The contenders’ bottles were wrapped up in brown paper to conceal their identities and estarLA and Beth did the pouring as they weren’t present when the bottles were wrapped.

Here’s a summary of our comments for each bottle.

Wine #1: Fresh, light, sweet but not sugary, can drink alone, super easy to drink, thin

Wine #2: Drier, better with food, bitter aftertaste, more acidic

Cabernet Sauvignons
Wine #3: Dry, fruity, lots of tannins, leathery aftertaste, touch of spice

Wine #4: Flabby, stinks, sweaty in the nose, bleh!, tastes flat like boring ketchup, BO/ass, peppery and watery

Think you know who won?

The winners

Fresh & Easy’s Vista Point Chardonnay (wine #1) earned our pick because although TJ’s Chard was a close second, we liked that you can drink the Vista Point on its own while TJ’s is best with food. So you can enjoy the Vista Point whenever.

It was a completely different story with the Cabernets, though. We had very strong feelings about who should be the winner and the loser in this category. Charles Shaw’s Cabernet (wine #3) roundly kicked the Northwood Cab’s $4 butt. And it was even better when we let the Chuck open up more while the Northwood didn’t improve at all.

So what’s the lesson here? Just that you now have more options in addition to Two-Buck Chuck for good, cheap wine. Yay!

Trader Joe’s store locations and Fresh & Easy store locations.

More pics from the blind wine tasting.