The wine, which costs as much as $3.99 in some markets, officially lives up to its nickname once again.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated January 23, 2020

Beginning in 2002, an entire generation seemed to come of (drinking) age with $1.99 bottles of Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw wine—lovingly (yes, lovingly) referred to as Two Buck Chuck. Interest in wine was continuing to surge in the United States, and for emerging drinkers on a budget, Charles Shaw was a dinner party staple, regularly sparking conversations of “This is actually pretty good!”

But eventually, those halcyon days came to an end thanks to an inevitable force: inflation. In 2013, Trader Joe’s jacked up the price of Charles Shaw to $2.49 a bottle in the brand’s home state of California (pushing it even higher in other parts of the country and as time went on). And though people continued to refer to it as Two Buck Chuck, we all knew it was a lie.

ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo

That is, until now. This month, Trader Joe’s has officially rolled back the price of Two Buck Chuck in California stores from $2.99 to $1.99—a move the company says is permanent (at least until it isn’t again). “We’ve been able to work with the producer of Charles Shaw to make some improvements packaging-wise so that it uses less glass and the cork is a little bit different,” Matt Sloan, vice president of marketing and product at Trader Joe’s, told the Los Angeles Business Journal. “These cost savings have put us into a position where we can pass a lot of that savings right onto customers.”

In particular, those packaging tweaks have driven down shipping costs, which also explains why the $2 rollback is only happening in California, the state that’s home to Modesto’s Bronco Wine Company (owned by the Franzia family) where the vino is produced. The Business Journal points out that thanks to distribution costs and varying tax rates, “Two Buck” Chuck can get as high as $3.99 Chuck in other parts of the United States.

Meanwhile, Trader Joe’s insists that the quality for the price is just as good as you remember it being 18 years ago—with the low price also driven by two very large grape harvests in 2018 and 2019 that created extra supply. “A lot of other grocers operate where they lose money on certain things as enticements to attract customers, and they make a bunch of money elsewhere,” Sloan added. “We have a very different approach, and everything that we offer has to earn that spot on the shelf.”

And Trader Joe’s is attempting to push that excitement level in-store. The SF Gate reports that a Trader Joe’s location in downtown San Francisco featured bottles of 2015 Merlot, 2016 Cabernet  Sauvignon, 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, and 2019 Chardonnay beneath a sign that read, “Two Buck Chuck is back! ...with a vengeance. Mmm... Tasty revenge.”

Who’s in the mood for an old-school dinner party? I’ll bring the plastic plates and mismatched silverware if you bring the three extra folding chairs no one officially claims in the basement of your apartment complex!

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