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Why is Trader Joe’s Wine So Cheap?

Wine is arguably one of the most refined and high-brow alcoholic drinks. Little wonder, it can also be expensive. Trader Joe’s is known for great prices though, especially on wine. But even aside from “Two-Buck Chuck”, why is Trader Joe’s wine so cheap?

Most Trader Joe’s wine is inexpensive due to being bottled under a private label arrangement. This gives Trader Joe’s an exclusive on many of its labels, making it hard to compare prices directly. But buying large quantities and focusing on less expensive wineries all help keep prices low.

Many of Trader Joe’s wines are made by Bronco wine in California.

Now, Bronco wine, a family-owned company, is not one of those snobbish vintners, even though they are one of the best at what they do. They focus on selling good wine at affordable prices, and they own over 120 brands in 90 countries.

In this article, we’ll explore the cheapest wine at Trader Joe’s, where Trader Joe’s get their wine, and what is the best Trader Joe’s wine.

We’ll also find out if Trader Joe’s still sells Two Buck Chuck and whether they sell discount wine by the case.

Let’s get started…

trader Joes wine cheap lg

What is the cheapest wine at Trader Joe’s?

The Charles Shaw blend is the cheapest wine at Trader Joe’s stores. This most popular brand, known as “Two-Buck Chuck”, sells for $1.99 at some stores and not more than $3.79 at other stores.

The Charles Shaw blend is the cheapest and also one of the most popular brands in America. Over a billion bottles have been sold since sales started in 2002. It’s its most iconic brand.

The types of wine produced under the Charles Shaw label are:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • White Zinfandel
  • Merlot
  • Chardonnay
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Shiraz
  • Valdiguié in the style of Beaujolais nouveau
  • Pinot Grigio

So they have a decent variety of both red wine and white varieties. Pinot Noir being notably absent.

As you can infer, the moniker “Two-Buck Chuck” is a comment on the fact that it’s incredibly affordable. The Charles Shaw Winery “Two-Buck Chuck” is Trader Joe’s cheapest wine.

Charles Shaw has its critics, but it is beloved by a lot of people; granted probably not by knowledgable wine drinkers.

This is confirmed by the fact that over a billion bottles have been sold since 2002. Some stores sell over 6 thousand bottles each day! Some critics have dubbed it “the darling of the discount wine world.”

So like it or not, that makes it the most popular wine brand in the lower price range.

By the way, the Charles Shaw name is not fictional. It’s the name of the owner of the winery that Bronco wine bought, which was the place where the drink was originally being produced.

The real Charles Shaw is still alive. He’s into databases now.

Where does Trader Joe’s get their wine?

Much of Trader Joe’s wine is made under a private label arrangement by Bronco wine co.. It is one of the largest wine producers in the United States and is located in Ceres, California, which is near Modesto, just south of Sacramento.  

So basically part of California’s central valley (specifically California’s San Joaquin valley) where acres of land are less expensive.

It is the company that transformed wine into something that’s not just for the rich. It made wine affordable by using innovative practices.

Bronco wine owner Fred Franzia along with his brothers John and Joseph, are shrewd businessmen from a family of winemakers.

But they weren’t in love with the snobbery that’s common among traditional wine producers and lovers. They read the market incredibly well and knew that folks wanted to drink wine but were not ready to pay the high prices.

They used a series of smart business strategies such as buying up distressed wineries and putting in place a factory that could produce twice the capacity of all the winemakers in Napa Valley.

At one point, their factory was working non-stop 24/7 to produce Charles Shaw. A year after sales started, it’s already sold 60 million bottles! You get 300 bottles per barrel, so that amounts to 200,000 barrels of wine! And buying bulk wine is one of the key ways Trader Joe’s keeps prices low.

According to the, the following are some of the secrets behind Bronco’s success with Charles Shaw:

  • A bottling plant that produces 250 bottles per minute
  • A 62m-gallon storage facility
  • A suite of 700k-gallon tanks (most small wineries have 700-gallon tanks)
  • A distribution network that includes a fleet of steel tanker trucks

What’s the best Trader Joe’s wine?

Gambler’s Flash Red Table Wine is the best wine available in Trader Joe’s wine available now. Like most of the wine sold by the grocer, it’s a private label product. It combines great quality with affordability. It retails for $7, and its ABV is 13.9%

It’s a proprietary blend. So, the grapes used are not disclosed. Regardless, the taste is an exquisite blend of a touch of cinnamon, cherry, vanilla, blackberries, dried sage, and coffee beans, to name a few.

It’s smooth as it glides down the throat and has a slight bittersweet and acidic aftertaste. Its richness is difficult to capture in words. It’s the taste buds that can truly appreciate this quality wine.

It’s a typical wine that Trader Joe’s sells at a rock-bottom price tag.

That being said, I prefer one of the 2 Barolos they sometimes have, if the budget is a little higher. One is around 15 bucks, and the other under $30. Barolos often go for $50-100, so this is pretty exceptional for the price.

Does Trader Joe sell liquor? 

Yes, it does in some states and not in others. And, even in some of the states where it sells, there could be restrictions. In a recent article of mine, I shared a complete state-by-state guide. Check it out for details.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Does Trader Joe’s still sell Two Buck Chuck?

Trader Joe’s is still selling Two Buck Chuck. At one point, its price rose, and it was selling for $2.99 and not $1.99, the iconic price that gave it its name. However, Bronco, its manufacturer, has implemented certain strategies that have enabled them to return it to its former price of $1.99.

It was retailed for 11 years at this price, and Bronco was selling 5 million cases a year.

But, nothing good lasts forever, right? At one point, it was retailing for $2.99, even $3.99. Now, you may be able to get it at its former price.

The president of marketing and product at Trader Joe’s explained how they’ve been able to sell at the old price:

“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…

These cost savings have put us into a position where we can pass a lot of that savings right onto customers.”

Of course, as occurs with most products, the price will naturally continue to increase over time. But rest assured the Charles Shaw label will always be a rock bottom price at Trader Joe’s. And that low price is the primary reason for Two Buck Chuck’s success.

Is Sprouts better than Trader Joe’s? 

In a recent article of mine, I showed that Sprouts is not better than Trader Joe’s, but they have full-service meat and seafood and bakery departments. TJ is cheaper and unlike Sprouts, does not carry products with artificial ingredients.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Does Trader Joe’s discount wine by the case?

Trader Joe’s does not offer case discounts on wine. The reason is that Trader Joe’s feels they already offer their absolute lowest prices all year and cannot afford to offer additional discounts.

Its products are mainly private label brands of high quality because they’re being manufactured by some of the best manufacturers of brand name products.

Trader Joe’s is not the ideal store for bulk purchases (that’ll be Costco or Sam’s Club or some other warehouse). But, as it is, its wine prices are a steal.

Before I wrap up, I thought it’s nice I share some interesting facts about Trader Joe’s and ShopRite. Now, Trader Joe’s is one of America’s fave grocery stores, but some love Shoprite with a passion. 

So, I took the time to research and explored both in a recent article of mine.

In the article, I looked at their prices, who has more organic products, whether you can order online from both stores, the best things to buy at TJ, and if it has better meat than ShopRite.

Amongst other themes I explored, I showed that Trader Joe’s is one of the least expensive grocery stores in the nation. It’s 6 percentage points below Shoprite in terms of pricing.

And, it has a more considerable selection of produce. But, Shoprite comes out on top when one checks out the meat section of both stores. I also offered advice on the best things to buy at Trader Joe’s, including beer and wine.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

How is cheap wine different from better wine?

Aging is a key factor in what differentiates cheap wine from expensive wine. After all, if you age it, you have to wait to sell it. That means those companies are sitting on large amounts of inventory for a longer time.

They have to have deeper pockets to be able to afford to do that. But also longer aging requires a bigger facility and more equipment to age the wine in.

Another factor is whether the grapes are picked by hand or machine.

Hand-picking means great quality control by visually inspecting the grapes. Plus machines tend to be a little rough on the grapes too. So generally wine made from hand-picked grapes is seen as superior. But that labor costs more.

Lastly, there is the type of barrel used.

Oak barrels have long been prized for aging wine. But 1 oak barrel can easily cost $400. So many producers opt for stainless steel barrels and use oak chips in those barrels to impart the oak flavor that would normally have come from the oak barrel.

And while there are many who claim that oak chips produce just as good a wine, many wine aficionados would disagree. But stainless steel barrels and oak chips are considerably cheaper.

Are wines with plastic corks not as good?

Generally speaking, plastic wine corks are more reliable as they don’t allow any air to exchange with the wine.

Real corks can occasionally fail, resulting in nasty-tasting corked wine. But a slow air exchange after bottling following the production of the wine does produce a more mature-tasting wine.

So yes; wines with real corks as opposed to a plastic cork or screw-top is considered to be better (and often more expensive). That is true even with wines that use the cheapest forms of natural cork.

So if you have less expensive wines with plastic corks, there is no benefit to aging them in the bottle; drink them right away.

Are cheaper wines bottled in lighter bottles?

Lighter bottles mean lower prices due to shipping costs and transportation costs being lower since the weight of a case of wine is one of the big factors there.

That’s why you not only see lighter bottles but boxed wine, long seen as trashy, inexpensive wine, coming more into vogue. It’s a great way to get decent wine into stores for less money.


We looked at the cheapest wine at Trader Joe’s, where it gets its wine, and the best Trader Joe’s wine.

Charles Shaw “Two Buck Chuck” is the cheapest wine and Bronco wine company produced the brand. Gambler’s Flash Red Table Wine is the best Trader Joe’s wine on offer now.

We also found out whether Two Buck Chuck is still being sold, and we wrapped up by considering if they discount wine in cases. They don’t because their prices are already heavily discounted.

Curious how Riesling and Gewürztraminer differ?

After all,  both have a lot of similarities. But there is one key difference that should definitely be considered when trying to pair with certain foods! Check out my recent article to see a complete comparison of the two.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Photo which requires attribution:

A Whole Lotta Two Buck Chuck by Kris is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped with a text overlay added

Jeff Campbell