A Toast To The Ultimate Underdog

August 8, 2007 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

As it turns out, the Prom Queen lives in a trailer park.

Last week, at the 2007 California State Fair Wine competition, the Charles Shaw Chardonnay, affectionately known to Californians as “Two Buck Chuck” because of its $1.99 price tag, took the top prize beating out 350 other Chardonnays from all over California. Second place went to a lovely $18 bottle of wine from Napa, while the most expensive Chardonnays in the competition, bottles that topped out around $55, didn’t even place.

Anybody know how to say “Yo Mama!” in French?

It’s another feather in the cap for America’s cost-conscious winemaker. Sold exclusively through the quirky Trader Joe’s grocery stores, the Charles Shaw Shiraz bested 2,300 other wines at the 2002 International Eastern Wine Competition before the 2005 Chardonnay was named “Best of California” and “Best of Show” at this year’s fair with a score of 98 and a double Gold Medal.

“We choose to sell good quality wines at $2 a bottle because we think it’s a fair price,” said Charles Shaw’s Fred Franzia in an ABC News article. “We think the other people are charging too much!”

Admittedly, I’m not much of a wine drinker and don’t really appreciate all the nuances that make one bottle of wine worth $5 and another worth $500. Shoot, where I grew up, anything with a cork was considered fine wine. But what I can appreciate as a marketer, is that whether it’s a judge or a consumer, people choose what they like. Period.

Oh, we can influence their decision through advertising and marketing. We can help educate them. But ultimately, people like what they like. They buy what they like. And best of all, they tell their friends what they like.

Presently, Charles Shaw bottles a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Merlot, a Chardonnay, a Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz varietals and a Valdiguie in the style of Beaujolais nouveau. All sold for about two bucks a bottle.
Could they raise that price now that they’ve been named the best Chardonnay in one of the best wine regions of the world? Of course they could.

But they won’t.

The real estate they own in the hearts of their consumers pays all the dividends they need. In California, they are truly a beloved brand. They know who they are. And now, so will the rest of the world.

Join me in raising a glass, or your best plasticware, to “Two Buck Chuck!” May your success be long and your journey to Texas stores be short!

two buck chuckunderdogwine

Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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