Two Buck Chuck wines have astonished the wine world by making the finals of an international wine competition.

Distributor Charles Shaw sells the range of California-sourced wines at US retailer Trader Joe’s, under the Charles Shaw label.

The wines became notorious in 2002, first for their rock-bottom price tag (it goes for US$1.99 in California and slightly more elsewhere) and secondly for the speed with which they sold.

Two Buck Chuck was picked up by the metropolitan middle classes and became a instant hit. Last year 4m cases were sold, up from 1.8m in 2002.

Now sales are set to soar once more as the 2002 Shiraz was chosen for the finals of the 28th Annual International Eastern Wine Competition. It didn’t win in the end – Alexander Valley Vineyards Cyrus 2000 took the top prize in the category – but getting to that stage in the competition has given the wine a boost.

But the wine’s success hasn’t pleased everyone. ‘It’s a fad, a way to soak up excess grape production,’ Brian Rosen, owner of the country’s largest wine store, Sam’s Wines and Spirits, said. He also expressed concerns that its poor quality will put off new-comers to wine.

Produced at the Bronco winery in California’s Central Valley, the wine set a new level for low-end wines and been discussed at length at recent wine trade fair Vinexpo Americas 2004 in Chicago.

Written by Jack Martin