If I had a quarter for every time somebody has told me how much they wish they could buy "Two-Buck Chuck" wine in Nashville, well, I could buy a case of the stuff. But I wouldn't.
You may have heard about Chuck as a "super value" wine sold at Trader Joe's (in states other than Tennessee where grocery stores are allowed to sell wine). I'm not being a snob about it, but first of all, it's not even really two bucks. East of the Mississippi, Charles Shaw's white and red usually run a little over $3. Manufactured by Bronco Wine Company, Chuck is made from the extra grapes from many, many vineyards all over California. Like the grapes that nobody else wanted. The inconsistency of the juice means that you really might get what you paid for: not much.
More importantly, there are much better cheap wines available from vintners that understand that many wine drinkers are looking for a "pool pounder" that won't break the bank. They're not easy to find, but if you make friends with your local wine shop employees they'll give you the skinny. Don't be ashamed to say you're looking for something cheap but palatable.
Recently Hoyt Hill at Village Wines sent me an email that I thought had to have a typo in it. He had come across a deal on multiple cases of some 2007 Jacob's Creek Reserve Riesling that he was selling at $2.50/bottle or $27 per case. That's usually a $12-15 bottle, so I took a flier on a case.
As always, the proof is in the tasting. How did this wine measure up to the Chuck?
Pretty admirably. Riesling isn't necessarily an everyday varietal, particularly the sweeter incarnations. Luckily, the Jacob's Creek is an off-dry version with a nose of limes and honeysuckle. Not too tart, with floral flavors brightened by the innate acidity of the wine, making it an extremely food-friendly option. The traditional honey aspect of Riesling is muted but might develop more if the wine was allowed to age.
The finish is short, but that just means you need to take another sip. The wine is well-structured for such an affordable bottle and has earned its valuable real estate on my refrigerator shelf. In fact, my only knock on Jacob's Creek is that like all Rieslings, the bottle is too tall to stand up on my top shelf.
Oh well, I didn't need that milk anyway.