Price hiked for 'Two-Buck Chuck'

  • ** ADVANCE FOR TUESDAY MAY 29 **A worker stacks cases of Charles Shaw wine at the Bronco Wine Company facility in Napa, Calif., Tuesday, April 17, 2007. 55,000 cases a day are coming out of this Napa Valley bottling plant, more than some upscale wineries make in a year. And it's owned not by some blue-blooded purveyor of high-end reds but by Fred Franzia, famous for Two Buck Chuck and the ten bucks taboo, as in: No wine is worth more than $10. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

It's the end of an era for "Two-Buck Chuck," the wine that earned a nickname and notoriety for its surprisingly low price.

For the past decade, shoppers at Trader Joe's stores in California have paid just $1.99 for a bottle of Charles Shaw shiraz or cabernet sauvignon. But the new price, $2.49, takes a little longer to roll off the tongue.

So what will the shoppers, who came up with the moniker "Two-Buck Chuck," call it now?

"Inflation Chuck," said Matt Tucker, 28, a cook from Santa Rosa.

"Upchuck," said Lisa Garrett, 50, of Stewarts Point, saying her suggestion reflects the price increase, not the wine's drinkability.

The Charles Shaw brand was able to maintain such low prices for so long in part because its parent company, Bronco Wine Co., owns 45,000 acres of vineyard land, said Harvey Posert, spokesman for Bronco. That helps the company ride out wild fluctuations in grape prices like those the industry has seen in recent years.

"If there's one grape too many, the price dips," Posert said. "If there's one grape too few, the price zips up. In the sense of being the largest grape grower, Bronco can ride many of these ups and downs.

"But there were bad crops in 2010 and 2011, and that certainly impacted the industry," he said.

Even so, the retail price is set by Trader Joe's, Posert said. A display case in the store's wine aisle labels Charles Shaw as Trader Joe's best-selling wine. The brand sold about 5 million cases last year, Posert said.

"In general, our retail prices change only when our costs change," Alison Mochizuki, director of public relations for Trader Joe's, said in an email. "We've held a $1.99 retail price for 11 years. Quite a bit has happened during those years and the move to $2.49 allows us to offer the same quality that has made the wine famous the world over."

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