Charles Shaw Blind Tasting Revisited

Friday, January 4, 2013

One of the more popular posts on this site historically has been a three-way blind tasting involving Charles Shaw and two $10-$15 Cabernets. The goal was to assess whether we might be wasting $10 a night when drinking wines we thought were better than Charles Shaw but in reality weren't because we'd built up a bias against Charles Shaw because it's so affordable.

This piece originally appeared on the now-retired RJ's Wine Blog. I wanted to republish it here so that folks wouldn't get a dead link as they tried to navigate to his site after reading his post on my site. RJ is still around thankfully but tonight we'll tip a 1.5L of CdP in memory of RJ's Wine Blog.

Non-related I've heard Charles Shaw is now over $3 in Massachusetts? I haven't been to Trader Joe's lately - can anyone confirm? I'll have to get over there soon and perhaps do a rematch blind tasting to commemorate the upcoming 4 year anniversary of this tasting.

At any rate, I hope you enjoy this blast from the past. Fresh content coming up soon I promise...Can you tell the difference between $2 Charles Shaw and a $10-$15 Cab? If not, you may be wasting $10 every time you crack open a bottle of wine. Can *I* tell the difference? After RJ posted his thoughts on the Charles Shaw lineup, we got to talking about how it would be an interesting exercise to do a blind tasting that included Charles Shaw alongside a couple of $10-$15 Cabernets. Could we tell the difference when tasting blind? Or would the Two Buck Chuck trick us?

How We Tasted

I had my wife pour 3 glasses and randomly order them. The wines were open about 20 minutes before I gave them a try. I smelled and tasted each of them, took notes along the way, and assigned a numerical rating on a 100-point scale.

Wine #1: On the nose: Young. Floral perfume. Dusty. A light colored in the glass. Slight veggies. In the mouth: A little bright. Not my favorite wine. Overall: Fruity, drinkable and so-so. Rating: 84

Wine#2: Nose: Rich. Caramel. Smells like a California Cab. Big, dark fruit. Mouth: By far my favorite. Full, soft, dense, ripe. Excellent. Non-harsh tannins. Luscious. Overall: This wine was by far my favorite of the three. Rating: 91

Wine #3: Nose: Bad, perhaps off. A little magic marker/plastic. Flat. Pretty bad. Awful. Mouth: Better on the palate than on the nose. A slight pucker on the finish. Overall: Downright awful on the nose, but I wouldn't pick it as being the Charles Shaw. It was bad in a different way than Charles Shaw is typically bad. The Shaw's fault tends to be that it's thin. This wine was *not* thin. The tannins are too noticable to be the Shaw. Rating: 78

OK, are you ready for the reveal?
  • Wine #1: 2006 Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon (84)
  • Wine #2: 2006 Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon (91)
  • Wine #3: 2006 Louis M. Martini Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon (78)


I was really surprised how much the Columbia Crest from Washington tasted like a warmer climate/California wine. As I was tasting the wines, I was biased to think that the wine from Sonoma would show richer, warmer characteristics. Not so. The Charles Shaw showed quite admirably for a $2/$3 wine. As always, drinkable and enjoyable. I am a fan of the Charles Shaw and I think they deliver "good" value.

In terms of professional ratings of these wines, and relative value:
  • Columbia Crest: 89 Wine Spectator/$11 equals a wwpQPR of 1.44 (Above avg)
  • Louis Martini: 87 Wine Spectator/$15 equals a wwpQPR of 0.67 (Below avg)
  • Charles Shaw (2003 vintage rated): 82 Wine Spectator/$2.99 equals a wwpQPR of 1.05 (Above avg) -or- at $2 a wwpQPR of 1.57 (Good)
What is this wwpQPR I'm talking about? I'm glad you asked. It's a formula I've devised (along with a calculator) that assesses relative value of wines depending on rating, price, and peer group. If value wines are something that interests you, I hope you'll check it out here.

To read RJ's take on these same 3 wines tasted on the other side of the country check out this post. The results might surprise you!


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