If you have ever been to a Trader Joe’s, there’s a very good chance you have heard of “Two-Buck Chuck.” Maybe you’ve even enjoyed a bottle (or a dozen). The wine, which comes in several varieties (including Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and Cabernet), is officially named “Charles Shaw” and sells for only $2.99 at the grocery store. It is so popular that it has sold over a billion bottles. But Mr. Shaw, who is a real person for whom the wine is named, has never earned a single penny from sales of the wine at Trader Joe’s.
It all began when Charles Shaw owned his own winery in Napa Valley in the ’70s. He won awards for what he produced and was successful for some time. At one point, he even sold one of his Gamays at Trader Joe’s for $2 per bottle. Shaw tried to grow his business but had many problems along the way. According to Business Insider, his wines “were contaminated with a petroleum flavor due to a packaging error, and he lost 10,000 cases. Then, a bug called root louse destroyed his main vineyard. Later, his wife, who had funded most of the business, filed for divorce and removed Shaw from it.” That was when a trustee for the winery became owner of the label, including the name.
Soon, Fred Franzia for Bronco Wine Company purchased the wine label for $27,000 and eventually brought it to Trader Joe’s to sell for just $2 a bottle. Not only did the transaction not involve the man whose very name was on all the bottles, but he didn’t even know it happened. Mr. Shaw learned about the wine at the popular grocery store later.
Shaw, who is 74 years old and lives in Chicago, works at the Chicago Board of Trade now.