Charles Shaw Shiraz (2008) – Wine Review – Trader Joe’s

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Even though I always pick up a bottle or two of Charles Shaw wine when at Trader Joe’s, I’ve never written about one.  So here goes.  It’s a head-to-head taste test between the Charles Shaw Shiraz and a D’aquino Gaetano Sangiovese.  California versus Italy.  Good thing this isn’t soccer.

The thing I always find incredible about the Charles Shaw “3 buck chuck” wine selections is, they’re drinkable.  Not only are they drinkable, but they’re not bad.  Throw in the $3 price tag and it is truly nearly incredible that a decent wine can be produced and sold at this price.  Historically, a $3 bottle of wine is something we bought when much younger and poorer and ended up regretting that purchase the next morning – and sometimes even into the evening.  If you know what I mean.

Here’s the brief head-to-head taste test between the Shiraz and the Sangiovese.  The Sangiovese sells in the $6 to $10 price range.  Still pretty reasonable, but two to three times the price of the Shiraz.  The Sangiovese has been reviewed before and is currently my favorite red wine in the under $10 price range. 

Comparing the two aromas, the Sangiovese has a slightly stronger aroma than the Shiraz.  The aroma is also a little more pleasing than the Shiraz.  As we would expect, taste follows aroma.  The more mellow, but stronger, aroma of the Sangiovese has a stronger, but more pleasing, taste than the Shiraz.  The Shiraz tastes a little more industrial.  I don’t know if there’s a wine definition for industrial, but you get the idea. 

While pondering these differences, and the really hard part in pondering is trying to do this before all the little sips make pondering perilous,  I’d have to say the Shiraz tastes like an inexpensive weak Chianti.  This is interesting because the Sangiovese grape is a primary grape in making Chianti wine and the Sangiovese wine here doesn’t taste like a Chianti at all.

Both the Shiraz and the Sangiovese are milder red wines.  They don’t have the stronger tastes of most Merlots or Cabernets.  In this way, they’re comparable.

What’s the bottom line?  For an extra $3 or so, the Sangiovese is a better wine and worth the extra cents.  However, price or bottle labels are no assurance one wine is going to be substantially better than another.  And in this case, the Sangiovese is better than other wines in the same price range.  If we were going to compare one of these other $6 wines with the Shiraz, there may not be that much difference.  The only real way to compare two different wines is to buy a bottle of each and make the comparison yourself.  We all have slightly different tastes.  We’ll all come up with slightly different results.

The only caveat I have for the Charles Shaw $3 varieties is, they may have become  too popular. They used to be more consistent between purchases.  Now, the taste seems to vary more over time.  Perhaps the increased demand has forced the wine to be pushed out the door a little before it was ready.  I don’t know. 

Given all the above, when I’m out looking for wine to replenish the home supply, I’ll continue to buy a bottle or two of Charles Shaw $3 whatever.  That’s not because of price or taste, it’s because it’s okay.  It serves the purpose, whether sipping it alone or using it to wash down some lasagna.

Price: $2.99

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