7 best and 7 worst wines you can buy at Trader Joe's

Wine has always been at the heart of Trader Joe's. When the store first opened in 1967 in Pasadena, California (per the company's website), they weren't just a grocery store. They were the go-to place for wine. They sold every available California wine there was, from the major wineries to the little ones. In 1970, they came out with their newsletter, The Insider Report, where they told stories about all the different wines they sold. People loved their wine, and people loved Trader Joe's.

Everything changed in 2002 when the store started selling Charles Shaw wines in their stores. Fondly nicknamed "Two Buck Chuck," these extremely inexpensive wines were geared toward those who wanted quality, but didn't want to pay $20 for a bottle of red. Since then, their Charles Shaw wines have gone on to win many awards, to the surprise of many a wine connoisseur. But not all of the Charles Shaw wines are created equal — and let's not forget that the offerings today at Trader Joe's are vast indeed. You can get everything from the cheapest wines to some pricey, but delectable wines, bruts, and champagnes. There's something here for everyone's budget, and there are amazing glasses in every price category.

But which ones are the best? Curious to know which wines you should be buying for your next dinner party or a random Thursday night? Never fear, these are the best (and worst) wines at Trader Joe's.

Best: Charles de Marques Champagne from Trader Joe's

Champagne rarely comes cheap. After all, it can only be called champagne if the grapes used come from the Champagne region of France. There's a certain air about real champagne, like you know you're drinking something special. That said, it doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. For just $21 at Trader Joe's, the Charles de Marques Champagne is an excellent choice for your next celebration. Whether it's an engagement, New Year's Eve, birthday, or just for the heck of it, this champagne is a delicious buy. 

Charles de Marques Champagne is a traditional champagne made with pinot noir and chardonnay grapes, but it goes down ever so smooth and has a subtle floral scent. According to Brit+Co, it's not overly sweet either, as many budget champagnes tend to be. There's a nice nuttiness to it, but this dry champagne is nice and light. If you're looking to pair it with something, a nice charcuterie plate would be right in order, and also would be easy to put together at Trader Joe's. That said, you don't have to be fancy while drinking champagne; go and order yourself a pizza or some tacos. This champagne is versatile and really would go along great with anything.

Best: Tribunal Red Wine North Coast from Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's has a number of wines that you can only get at their store — like the Tribunals. Tribunal wines are blends, and while normally wine snobs would turn their nose up at such a thing, this is the right kind of blend for a red wine. It's all in the proportions, after all. The exclusive North Coast Tribunal wine is, according to Reverse Wine Snob, a blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Barbera, Grenache and Petit Verdot, all from the North Coast of California — hence the name. Per the Reverse Wine Snob write-up, it's got a fruity full bodied taste that starts off with a black cherry and prunes before fading into notes of chocolate and vanilla. It's not just a great dessert wine with that flavor profile, but pairs excellently with meat, especially a nice juicy burger.

If you're not into rich wines, this one may not be for you. However, we recommend you give it a try. This is a lot of flavor in a wine that only costs $9.99. You'll be paying much more to get something of equal quality at any other store.

Best: La Paca Sonriente Garnacha Spanish Red Wine from Trader Joe's

There are many people in the world that choose a bottle of wine based on the label. Don't scoff, you've done it too. La Paca Sonriente Garnacha has one of the more unique labels out there; it immediately catches the eye with its one line portrait. It's often the case that cool labels don't equal quality drinks, but in this case, it's the opposite. La Paca Sonriente Garnacha is a red wine that people love, and with good reason. It's delicious. Moreover, it's only $6.99 and delicious. It's bold and earthy, with a great tang of pomegranate and cranberry, and a deeper flavor of cherries. It's fruity without being sweet. It's more on the dry side, but drinks relatively smoothly.

There's a bit of a tannic spice at the beginning that would make it a great pairing with spicier dishes. However, like all good reds, it goes great with beef. While this wine is great straight out of the bottle, wine fans at Vivino say it gets even better when it's had a chance to breathe for a little bit.

Best: Clos La Gaffeliere Saint Emilion Grand Cru from Trader Joe's

Now, when you wander into a wine store and see Saint Emilion Grand Cru, you're probably looking at a high price tag. One of the most respected vineyards, the wines that come from there are coveted and refined. A bottle of this tends to set you back at least $50. That is, unless you go to Trader Joe's and get the Clos La Gaffeliere Saint Emilion Grand Cru, in which case you'll be spending half of that. Yes, $25 is probably more than you want to spend on a bottle of wine at Trader Joe's, however, in this case it's worth it. This is an astounding well-balanced wine with a full body taste. According to Last Bottle, it's made from grapes on younger vines, has a French oak nose that brings out the earthiness of the cherry notes and blackberry extract. There's a nice spiciness to it as well without being overpowering.

If you're looking to treat yourself, this is the wine you want to go with. It may be quite a bit more than "Two Buck Chuck," but sometimes the extra quality is worth the price.

Best: Trader Joe's Petit Reserve Chenin Blanc Viognier

At $7.99 for a 750mL bottle, you can't really go wrong with Trader Joe's Petit Reserve Cheninc Blanc Viognier, a white wine with quite a punch. It's a very good dupe of the popular Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc Viognier according to Reverse Wine Snob, and one that will save you a few bucks a bottle at that. This aromatic and floral wine is perfect with light pasta, chicken, and fish dishes. It's also just great to drink by the glass in the sunshine (or your couch, we don't judge). It's not your average white wine, but that's one of the reasons why we love it.

What makes this flavor combination so unique lies in the two grapes used. Chenin Blanc grapes are originally from the Loire Valley in France and produce an acidic, but fruity white wine. Alternatively, Viognier grapes are from the Northern Rhône Valley. These grapes have a bolder full body flavor. According to Trader Joe's themselves, mixing the two together produces a subtly sweet, but still acidic wine that has a perkiness of nectarine, lemon, grapefruit, and even a bit of pear. These fruity notes make this wine bright and clear, and is a perfect alternative to Chardonnay, if you're looking to switch it up a bit.

Best: Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon from Trader Joe's

A lot of people swear by Trader Joe's "Two Buck Chuck" wines. They're incredibly cheap and come in a myriad of different types and flavor compositions. To be honest, we're not a huge fan of them, especially when there's just so much on the shelves that are superior for not that much more, but we will give credit where credit it due. The Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon is quite lovely. Its price point of $3.99, ironically no longer costing two bucks, just makes it all the better.

What makes the Cabernet Sauvignon from Charles Shaw the superior "Two Buck Chuck," at least according to the Charles Shaw wine tasting at Business Insider, are its woodsy and peppery notes. It's the most flavorful of the Shaw offerings and has a nice full bodied taste that gets more interesting the more you drink it. It may be a bit more heavy than some people like, but when you're looking for a robust wine, sometimes it doesn't pay to pay more. Sometimes you just need a bottle of wine that has a big personality instead of a big price tag. We may never join the Charles Shaw fan club, but we will champion this as a pretty decent Cab.

Best: La Ferme Julien Rosé from Trader Joe's

Remember how we said a lot of people choose wine based on the label? Well this one has a pink goat on it, so that's 10 points already in its favor. The fact that La Ferme Julien Rosé is a wonderful, bright wine is an added bonus. Trader Joe's stocks it from the noted Perrin family of Beaucastel, Châteauneuf du Pape. They explain that this family of winemakers is extremely respected for their sustainable farming and dedication to using organic products. Their rosé is no exception and is a beautiful blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Cinsault grapes. The pretty pastel pink color comes from only letting the juices interact with the grape skins for a short amount of time. Sometimes a drink is pretty and great quality — they're not mutually exclusive. This one is also crisp, refreshing, and full of floral and fruity flavors.

The goat on Le Ferme Julien bottles is actually a rather big topic at Trader Joe's. Customers have questions. Is there a purpose to the goat? A clue as to its origins or taste? Well, according to Trader Joe's it's... just a goat. Think of it as a conversation piece that you can also drink.

Worst: Charles Shaw White Zinfandel from Trader Joe's

Look, we know a few of you (okay, a lot of you) are going to be mad at our worst wines list. Quite a few of them are Charles Shaw wines, and we know they're cheap and there's probably some wiggle room on quality for that, but we have standards here. Also, inexpensive doesn't mean an attack on the palette. Trader Joe's has plenty of wallet-friendly wines that are very good. Even some of the Charles Shaw wines are quite nice, but the vast majority of them are really just ones you should buy when desperation sets in. Sorry, not sorry, Shaw fans.

The Charles Shaw White Zinfandel is the worst Charles Shaw wine. It's true and the truth hurts. Even Business Insider agrees with us. Why is it the reigning king of terrible wines? It's sickeningly sweet. Cloyingly sweet. Like drinking an acidic lollipop. Even if you're a fan of sweet wines, you'd find this one a bit much. There's only so much you could drink it with too. Definitely not dessert, you'd go into a sugar coma. Really, just don't buy it. Don't drink it. Don't even look at it lest you be tempted.

Worst: Charles Shaw Chardonnay Organic from Trader Joe's

We are all for organic wines. Treating the earth kindly is a great thing and something more winemakers should be doing. Charles Shaw is actually very good about this and has an entire line of organic varieties of many of their wines. They're also uniquely passionate about how easy it is to open said wines — they even have a specially designed cork. If you've ever tried to fish out a cork with a knife and gumption, you'd appreciate this feature. However, all the brownie points in the world couldn't quite save Charles Shaw's Chardonnay Organic. Sorry.

Chardonnays are known for a distinct flavor, and while Charles Shaw's organic offering may open up with exactly that, it quickly falls flat and leaves an unpleasant taste on your tongue. Shaw claims that their Chardonnay has a light body, but considering how quickly the flavor dies in your mouth, it may be too light. We may even say the initial taste is too bold, too intense. It's like this bottle is screaming "I am Chardonnay!" at you. Calm down, we hear you. We just don't like you.

Worst: Vignobles Lacheteau Muscadet from Trader Joe's

We take a brief break from our assault on Charles Shaw to bring you Vignobles Lacheteau Muscadet, a Muscat wine that has nothing important to say and isn't worth the time it takes to drink it. It's just kind of there. Sure, you could drink it, but there's better choices. There's nothing remarkable about it and chances are you'd forget the name before you even finished drinking it. Wine may help you forget some things, but it should never be forgettable itself.

The Vignobles Lacheteau Muscadet is a buttery wine, which isn't a bad thing, it's just the overpowering mineral taste that follows suit that leaves one rather confused. Muscadets do have a mineral quality to them, but balancing it is the important part. Not done so well here. There are some citrus notes in there, especially lemon, but it winds up ending too tart before again, dissolving into little to no taste at all. All in all this isn't the worst wine you will find at Trader Joe's, however, we'd argue that it's the worst muscat wine they have on offer. If you're looking for a better alternative, might we recommend the Chotard Muscadet Sèvre et Maine?

Worst: Trader Joe's Charles Shaw Sauvignon Blanc

Even fans of Charles Shaw wines have to admit that the Sauvignon Blanc is terrible. It's pungent and headache-inducing and all around just a terrible life choice. Don't do this to yourself. Do not drink this wine. Sauvignon Blancs aren't much to write home about on a good day, but the Charles Shaw variety is truly so odorous and grimace-worthy that it's a shock it's still on shelves. Thrillist said it smells like marijuana and skunks, so if that isn't a deterrent right there, then maybe you just like terrible things. At no point should you want to drink something that smells bad. This is a rule of life.

In all sincerity however, this just isn't a good wine. Even if you get a bottle that isn't as skunky as it tends to be, it has absolutely zero positive defining characteristics. It's wine. Bad wine. Please do not drink this wine. Drink Sauvignon Republic Cellars Sauvignon Blanc instead.

Worst: Charles Shaw Organic Rosé from Trader Joe's

Okay, before you pick up your pitchforks, hear us out. We know a lot of you like this wine. However, we have to tell you that you are mistaken. Look, there are a lot of rosés in the world. It is, after all, the "it" wine for a few summers running now. Everyone has jumped on the rosé bandwagon, and that — of course — included Charles Shaw. We just wish they hadn't. Not every winemakers needs to have a rosé. They're often overdone, over sweet, and just leave you with regret. There's such a plethora to pick from, especially at Trader Joe's, that there isn't really an excuse to go for the Charles Shaw variety. Kudos on the organic cultivation, but it's just not that great. Just because it's "Instagrammable pink" as Bustle puts it, doesn't make it a wine worth drinking.

Some of the best rosés are the sparkling kind. The bubbles bring out the flavors more, it makes it lighter, and frankly, more summery. If you decided against bubbles, then grab a bottle of our recommended La Ferme Julien Rosé. Leave the Charles Shaw version on the shelf. You can do better. You deserve better.

Worst: Charles Shaw Gamay Beaujolais Nouveau from Trader Joe's

If you're not aware of what a Beaujolais Nouveau is, it's a celebratory wine to commemorate the first harvest of the year. Think of it as a sampler for what is to come from specific wineries. It's their first chance to showcase their grapes. The third Thursday in November is actually Beaujolais Nouveau Day, and it marks the first vintage in France.

Beaujolais Nouveau wines aren't particularly complex. They haven't had that extra time to develop flavor. So, to be fair, we won't judge the Charles Shaw version too harshly. However, even by Beaujolai Nouveau standards, it's a rather boring wine. There's just nothing there but fruit. Strawberry to be exact. It's like you're drinking strawberry juice, and it just so happens there's some alcohol in there. There's nothing to recommend it, no notes to savor, the top is just as fruity as the bottom, and you're better off using it for cooking. People may buy Beaujolai Nouveau because it's a gimmick, or they want to try the first taste of a new harvest. However, this is Charles Shaw we're talking about, so there's not much to write home about.

Worst: Vin de Bordeaux Sauvignon de Seguin from Trader Joe's

This Sauvignon Blanc from Trader Joe's is quite potent. It smacks you in the face, alerting you to its presence, but not in a way that makes you want to keep drinking it. Sure, it's cheap at $6.99, but is that worth the headache you're bound to get later? This astringent wine is too fruit forward to be pleasant, and instead of being sweet it's actually got a bitter quality to it. It's also quite acidic, and even if you like your wines with a bit of a bite, this just goes a step or two too far. A wine sommelier told Atlanta Magazine that it smells like cat urine, and while yes, wine sommeliers can be a little snooty, if one tells you a wine smells like cat urine... you may want to avoid it. 

The Vin de Bordeaux Sauvignon de Seguin isn't particularly crisp, leaving you wanting for more of that bright fruit flavor. You'll never find it. Instead you'll just make a face that is all distaste and confusion at why you bought such a bottle in the first place.