Charles Shaw "Two Buck Chuck" Sauvignon Blanc

Anyone that has searched the couch cushions for a handful of change knows that boozing on an extreme budget can be a risky proposition. To help you decide how to spend that meager pile of pennies, we've scraped the Bottom of the Barrel to review some of the cheapest wines on the market. This week: Charles Shaw. The Vintage: Charles Shaw Sauvignon Blanc, ABV 11%

Few wines out there are consumed as regularly and subject to as much frequent criticism as Two Buck Chuck, the proletariat's wine of choice. (Or Three Buck Chuck now. Damn the Man.) While you may be met with snickers for admitting that you like white zinfandel in front of a wine snob, saying that you get down to a glass of Charles Shaw can be met with outright hostility.

If you've never experienced the condescending judgment of hundreds of glorified winos turning up their collective noses, just hop on the Chowhound boards and mention Two Buck Chuck. "Drinkable" and "decent for cooking" are about the nicest things anyone has to say in poor Chuck's defense, while "swill" and "giardia infected ground water" are far more common descriptors.

(See, swirl, sniff, sip and savor this bounty after the jump)

Appearance: The appearance of this sauvignon blanc was mostly clear with a slightly yellow tint, a fairly innocuous appearance for a wine so vilified by the vino elite. I could see how an electric yellow MD 20/20 could merit pause, but this pale yellow vintage looks pretty safe.

Bouquet: Mild citric notes were present, but the bouquet was overpowered by a generic fruity alcohol aroma, the hallmark of any cheap wine. At least it refrained from singing off nose hairs like other ghetto wines that can be purchased for a mere two to three bucks.

Body: Two Buck Chuck is definitely a step above Franzia, which tastes like more like a juice box than actual wine. It was a bit bland but wholly inoffensive, and would serve well as an all-purpose table wine for those of us representing the "cheap ass" demographic.

Finish: The finish is a bit acidic but fails to leave a fire in your belly like the true bottom of the barrel dregs (ugh, Thunderbird). And unlike Wild Rosie, it doesn't taste like poverty. This stuff just sells itself, doesn't it?

Pairs with: Since you had to hit up Trader Joe's to purchase this vintage, get yourself something fancy. Skip the cheesedoodles for one night (come on now, just this once), and spring for a soft cheese like brie or chevre with crackers. It's down right decadent to eat cheese that costs more than your entire bottle of wine.

Lasting impressions: Charles Shaw remains economical because the vintners buy in bulk the cheapest grapes they can, and in return pump out wine that costs less than a bottle of water. Sure the consistency may vary batch to batch, but if that's your primary concern in a wine, this firewater swilling column may not the ideal match for your interests.

Fred Franzia (yep, that Franzia) said it best, "I don't make wine to put in a closet. We sell wine to drink."

Cheers to that!

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Erica O'Neil