Saturday, August 1, 2009

2007 Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon: Another Good One from Two-Buck Chuck

Trader Joe's: Giant wall o' Charles Shaw &quot...Image by Chris Devers via Flickr

Once again, a tasty red from Charles Shaw: I just opened the 2007 California Cabernet Sauvignon. Actually, it was a little rough when I first opened it, so I put the rubber air-suction cork back on it, and a few days later tried it again.

And it was tasty: Lots of appropriate fruit, good body; altogether, a very drinkable $12 wine. That of course costs $1.99 at Trader Joe's.

The problem with reviewing Two-Buck Chuck wines is that you absolutely never know what you're going to find in any given bottle. Because Fred Franzia gets his grapes and his wine from all over the place -- including lots of wines on deep discount from distressed winemakers and grape growers -- but doesn't specify anything other than year and "California." This presumably is to protect those distressed winemakers who are fire-sale-ing a wine that might sell in good times for ten or twenty dollars.

So this week the $2 Charles Shaw Cab may be some bulk wine or grape producing a ho-hum box-wine of a bottle just about worth the two bucks. Next week, having burned through that plonk, Fred ships out a few hundred or thousand cases of a wine that would, in better times, sell for five or ten times that two dollars.

You don't know, so you have to do the Two-Buck-Chuck-Parking-Lot-Shuffle: Buy a bottle at Trader Joe's, go out to your car, take out the cork, taste it - and if you like it, go back inside and buy a case. For $25 the case.

Fine, but with the red wines in particular, you run into this problem: Some reds need to sit in the bottle for a while; or they need air before they taste right. The parking-lot taste test won't tell you that.

Instead, you buy some random bottles from time to time, and a few months (or years, in one case for me) later you open a bottle and it tastes better than it has any reason to taste, at that price. Or it's harsh upon opening, but softens with air.

Wow, you run over to your blog and write it up. What good does that do your reader? You bought it -- when? Last January? What are they supposed to do? Go over to Trader Joe's and buy it? The Cab that's on the pallets at Trader Joes today is most definitely *not* the Cab that you picked up last January! It could be good -- or ok -- or terrific. You can't know!

Because the wine in the bottle is, basically, random (except for the specific varietel), this is like walking down the aisle the picking up bottles at random. Fun, actually -- especially at these prices. But random. And maddening if you're trying to recommend things to people.

(The whites, by the way, don't react this way quite as much because their chemistry is different; they don't all need to age or get a lot of air. You can often tell pretty quickly whether that bottle of Chard is worth buying a case of.)

So the only good this blog posting will do you, the wine-enjoying reader, is this: If you happen to have some 2007 Charles Shaw Cab in your wine closet -- maybe you bought a case and are still working through it -- go ahead and open it up, give it some air, and enjoy -- it's ready!

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