Lots of people drink and enjoy Trader Joe’s private label wines, but how much do you really know about them? Did you know there are several tiers or levels of quality in Trader Joe’s wines? And are you curious about how they stack up “regular” wines? Well, we are here to help! In this episode, we taste and review three Trader Joe’s wines, including their Blanc de Blancs Brut, and two of their Petit Reserve wines - a Barbera and a Chardonnay - all of which are under ten bucks! And we discuss all of the different tiers of Trader Joe’s wines from Two Buck Chuck to the elusive Trader Joe’s Diamond Reserve. It’s not all that often that Trader Joe’s wine gets reviewed, so consider this an opportunity to at least see what we think - and then you can decide if you think we are full of it or not! Wines reviewed in this episode: 2021 Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Barbera, 2021 Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Chardonnay, and Trader Joe’s Blanc de Blancs Brut.
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Episode 67: Trader Joe’s Private Label Wine Review: Petit Reserve 00:00
Hello! And welcome to The Wine Pair Podcast. I’m Joe, your sommelier of reasonably priced wine, and this is my wife and my wine pairing partner in crime, Carmela. And we are The Wine Pair!
Ok, a quick orientation for those of you who may be new to the podcast - in each episode we learn about, and we taste and we review three wines that are reasonably priced - meaning under $20 - that should be easy for you to find. Our goal is to have some fun, learn about some new wines, and talk about wines in a way that regular people like us can understand. And we are proud to say that we are officially recommended by the editors of Decanter Magazine from their October issue, who call us fun, irreverent, chatty, and entertaining.
Carmela, believe it or not, this is the first episode we have done where all of the wines we are going to taste and review are Trader Joe’s brand or private label wines. And by the way, do you know what private label means? Yes, private label just means that they pay a winery or series of wineries to make wines for them that they can sell at a reasonable price under their own Trader Joe’s brand name. So, we thought it would be fun and interesting for our listeners to do an episode that just focused on their own wines, and in this episode we are going to focus on their Petit Reserve tier of wines, which we will talk about more later in the episode and explain the different tiers of Trader Joe’s wines, and specifically today we are going to taste their Sparkling Brut, their Petit Reserve Barbera, and their Petit Reserve Chardonnay.
Now, we did do an episode a while ago, it was actually episode 6, where we reviewed wines we bought at Trader Joe’s and in that episode actually had our daughter Marinanna join us which was fun. But none of the wines we tried in that episode were actually Trader Joe’s private label wines.
And then we did another episode in June, episode 33, where the first part of the episode was an interview with Dr. Robert Hollander, and the second part of the episode was a tasting of three Zinfandels, all of which we again bought at Trader Joe’s and one of which was a Trader Joe’s brand wine, specifically 2020 Trader Joe’s Reserve Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel Lot #233. And, you can find those episodes if you scroll through your podcast player or go to our website.
But, there are two weird things about those episodes. First, the episode with our daughter was really early on in our whole podcasting adventure when we were still trying to figure out what the hell we were doing, and so the format was a little goofy, and while we bought the wines at Trader Joe’s, we didn’t actually buy or taste any Trader Joe’s brand wines. Basically, we were just using Trader Joe’s as a grocery store where we could buy wine. Which is fine because people do just go there to shop, but the wines we chose you could basically find at any grocery store so it was not anything specific to Trader Joe’s really.
And then the other episode was a strange split episode, which is a format we have never done before and will likely never do again, where one half was an interview with a person who makes his own custom crush Zinfandel wines for his prostate cancer charity and the other half was a tasting of other Zinfandel wines, but not the Zinfandel he makes.
And we did that because we were interviewing for a charity, and we didn’t really want to review the wine in case we didn’t like it, and because the wine was far outside of our podcast price point, we just went out and did a review of Zinfandel wines that we bought at Trader Joe’s, but at least that time one of those wines was a Trader Joe’s brand wine. But overall, again, that episode was just sort of random.
So, back to this episode - we thought it would be fun to do a series of episodes where we just focused on Trader Joe’s private label wines because they are popular and people are probably curious about what people who review wines think about them because they don’t often get rated by professional reviews. Most of the reviews for their wines come from websites and reviewers that specialize in less expensive wines like The Reverse Wine Snob, which is a website I really like, by the way.
And, I think that sometimes people can be a little sheepish about saying they buy or they like Trader Joe’s wines, and so we want to explore the wines and let you know what we think. Not that we are the final word on them, and by the way, if you like a wine and we don’t, that doesn’t mean anything other than you can judge whether you may like a wine based on our tastes, which may be the exact opposite of yours, which is totally fine with us. Like we say all the time, there are wine reviewers that we often disagree with, and some we really agree with, and that is helpful for us in determining what wines we may like. Use us as a shortcut, even if you disagree with us! That is what we want to offer!
So, again, today we are going to do a little more research into Trader Joe’s private label wines, and we are going to taste three of their private label wines including a sparkling Brut, and their Petit Reserve Chardonnay and Petit Reserve Barbera . . .
But first . . . we have to do our shameless plug, right Carmela? First, we want to give a huge THANK YOU for listening to us and for your support of our show, and if you have not had the chance to do so yet, we would love it if you would subscribe to our podcast as a free way to support us even more and then you never have to miss a show! - and a huge thank you to all of you who have subscribed already - we really really appreciate it! And, another great way to support us for FREE is to leave a nice rating and review on our website or on Apple Podcasts or other podcast service where they allow that sort of thing so we can continue to grow our listeners.
You can also follow us and see fun pictures of the wines we are tasting and trying today on Instagram at thewinepairpodcast, and you can contact us on our website thewinepairpodcast.com and we would love to just hear how you are doing. Ok? Because we care.
And, as we do every week, we’ll tell you someone we think you should tell about The Wine Pair Podcast - and this week we want you to tell anyone who loves to buy wine at Trader Joe’s but is always unsure about whether or not they should admit that they like it!
ARTICLES and LINKS
Topic: What’s the deal with Trader Joe’s brand wines? 08:15
So, let’s talk about Trader Joe’s brand wines, which are pretty popular wines. And Trader Joe’s sells a lot of wine. However, one thing I will say is that it is kind of hard to find a lot out about Trader Joe’s online, which is one reason why I am not sure how much I trust them. I know people out there love Trader Joe’s, and I can clearly see why, but there is something a little too hidden about them that makes me suspicious. And the people who work there are a little too nice.
But, I digress. First, it is not clear how much wine Trader Joe’s sells altogether, but it is a lot. ChatGPT even said it does not have access to sales or inventory data (seriously, it told me that!), but according to some sources, it is estimated to sell over $1 billion in wine annually. I mean, walking into the average Trader Joe’s, at least in a state where grocery stores can sell wines, and you can see that a good percentage of floor space is dedicated to wine.
According to an article I found on the interwebs, which, incidentally you can find in our show notes if you head over to our website and look for this episode - Trader Joe’s was highly influential in changing how Americans shop for wines.
Basically, the guy who started Trader Joe’s - a guy named Joe Coulumbe - thought that there should be an alternative to the average huge megachain supermarket, one that was a little off the beaten path, with products that were catered to an audience that is more educated and more cosmopolitan - that is, customers who travel and have tastes that are more sophisticated. But still want cheap shit. Kind of like the people who might be attracted to this podcast!
And the article talks about one place where he really dug into this concept was in wine. He knew wine could be a big selling point for these customers, so part of what he created was a store where customers started to trust Trader Joe’s as a place they could rely on to get decent wine at a very good price. So he did things like find ways to skirt laws so that he could bring in really cheap international wine, he focused on partnerships with a few US winemakers so that he could get their wines in at low prices, he made a deal with Bronco Wines to make the now infamous Two Buck Chuck, and he also made deals with other wine makers to sell a cheaper version of their wine under the Trader Joe’s brand name. The objective was to sell consistently drinkable wines - not great and not bad wines - but drinkable and good enough that people would feel super comfortable buying on a Tuesday night.
Anyway, I digress. The question of how much wine Trader Joe’s sells is hard to pin down, but probably best described as “a lot.” They are definitely in the top 10 wine sellers in the US. My personal guess is that because their wine is less expensive on average, they probably are one of the very highest in volume. But getting exact figures, forget about it.
In its private label wines, Trader Joe’s has a few different tiers of quality that people may be able to guess based on price point or by the naming, but here they are just in case you were wondering.
- Lowest tier: Charles Shaw or Two Buck Chuck. Someday we may do an episode on it, but honestly, unless you are just trying to get shitfaced, I would stay away from it. To me, it is everything bad about mass produced American wine.
- 5th tier: Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve. We are tasting a couple of these wines today, and they usually sell in the $7.99 range. These wines are considered to be hit or miss, and at $7.99, that’s about what you would expect. Now there was also a Private Label Trader Joe’s wine called VINTJS that I am not sure is around any more, and may have been morphed into their Petit Reserve wine, but I am not sure, and would love to know from any of you out there what happened to know it or if it is still around.
- 4th tier: Trader Joe’s Reserve. These wines are in the $9.99 range, and tend to vary in quality, but are considered to be decent on average.
- 3rd tier: Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve. These are usually priced around $12.99, and they used to be the top line of Trader Joe’s wine. These are generally considered to be of pretty high quality.
- 2nd tier: Trader Joe’s Platinum Reserve. These tend to be $14.99 and up, and are considered to be high quality and do not last long on the shelves. The story here is that if you see them, you should buy them.
- Highest tier: Trader Joe’s Diamond Reserve. These are pretty hard to find and are priced around $19.99. I would expect these to be quite good.
So, what I would like to do is over a series of episodes, review wines in each of the different tiers. It makes sense, then, to me, that we would start with lower tier wines first, and then work our way up rather than just mixing and matching. But we are just not going to do Two Buck Chuck. Unless those of you out there in listening land are really curious and just want us to review them. Let us know!
Ok, enough about all of that, let’s talk about the specific wines that we chose for this episode.
ARTICLES and LINKS
Trader Joe’s Brand Wines We Chose for This Episode 16:06
As usual, all the wines we have chosen for this episode are under $20, and because these are all the Petit Reserve tier of Trader Joe’s wines, all of these wines are under $10, and so if any of these are any good, they are screaming good deals! And all of these should be easy to find because we bought them all at Trader Joe’s.
Now, I think I should mention, because I did not know this, but not every Trader Joe’s sells wine. Did you know that? For instance, when we went to visit our kids in New York City, we went to a really nice Trader Joe’s on the Upper East Side, but it did not sell wine, which I was sort of blown away by. There was also a standalone Trader Joe’s wine store in Manhattan, but it closed suddenly in August of 2022, and so it is unclear at this time whether or not it will reopen, but that is shocking to me. And, not every state has a Trader Joe’s. There are 42 states that have Trader Joe’s stores, and from an article I found online, about 30 or so states allow Trader Joe’s to sell wine. So, as long as you are one of the lucky people who lives in a state that has a Trader Joe’s and also has a state that allows wine sales in grocery stores, these wines will be easy to find. And, that also assumes they are in stock in your area!
So, the first wine we are going to taste and review is the Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Barbera which comes from Paso Robles, which is near where our daughter did her undergrad at Cal Poly, and is in the beautiful Central Coast area of California.
Many of you may not be familiar with Barbera, but you should be! Last year we did an episode - episode 13 - which was one of our WTF episodes on Barbera, and one of the Barberas, a Vietti, we really liked. Barbera is an underrated and underappreciated wine that comes from the Piedmont area of Italy and is generally considered to be an easy drinking red wine with lots of acidity, a medium body, and low tannin. It is not a big fat red wine in general, although sometimes California versions of wines can be bigger bodied and higher in alcohol. But, again, if you are looking for a Cabernet-type wine, this is not the wine for you. If you like Merlot, however, you may like this varietal which tends to be smooth and fruity.
Like I said before, it is hard to find out too much about who makes Trader Joe’s wine, but there are some signs from what I could find on the interwebs that it may be made by the Miller Family Wine Company which operates in Paso Robles and does make other Trader Joe’s wines.
The next wine we are tasting and reviewing is the Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Chardonnay which also comes from Paso Robles on the Central Coast of California. Now, we are not huge fans of oaky Chardonnay, but we are going to be open-minded about this wine, right, Carmela? And, we know that many people out there are very fond of oaked up Chardonnay, and so we wanted to make sure one of the wines we tried in this tier was something that would be popular with the peeps.
The Trader Joe’s description of the wine itself notes that this wine is evidently limited, that it is made by a winery partner of theirs in the third largest wine producing area of California, but that Paso is not known for Chardonnay, and after they tasted their wine, they made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. So, we’ll see what we think. Again, if this wine is any good, the price point makes it a killer deal.
The last wine we are trying today is not technically a Petit Reserve wine, but is in the same general pricing tier at $6.99. That’s right, we are tasting and reviewing a sparkling Blanc de Blancs from France under the Trader Joe’s label that is under $7, which seems nuts. It is in the same sort of price range as a Costco Kirkland Prosecco, and so we will see if it is in the same sort of quality range.
There is not a ton to tell you about this wine other than it is cheap bubbly, it is from France, and because it is a blanc de blancs is probably made with just Chardonnay, but that’s not a for sure thing because it is not clear where it is from or what grapes it is made with, but definitely has to be made with white wine grapes in order to be called a blanc de blancs.
It is also unclear if it is made in the traditional method or the faster Charmat method, but I am betting heavily, as are some other writers online, that it is made in the Charmat or tank method which is how Prosecco is made. But look, we love bubbly, and if a $7 bubbly is any good, that is good enough for us. Charmat or not.
So, on that note, I think we have been talking enough and it’s time to get drinking! Whaddya say?!?
ARTICLES and LINKS
Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Barbera, Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Chardonnay, and Trader Joe’s Sparkling Blanc de Blancs Brut Wine Pairing Tasting and Reviews 22:03
Wine: Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Barbera
Region: California, Paso Robles
Retailer: Trader Joe’s
What we tasted and smelled in this Barbera:
- On the nose: Cherry, vanilla, wood, leather, cinnamon, black currant
- In the mouth: Sweet, tart cherry, a little thin, a little too much wood, maybe too much alcohol
Food to pair with this Barbera: Pizza, spaghetti bolognese, beef stew, pot roast
As a reminder on our rating scale, we rate on a scale of 1-10, where 7 and above means that we would buy it, and 4 and below means that we are likely to pour it down the sink, and a 5 or 6 means we are likely to drink it and finish it, but we are probably not going to buy it.
- Joe: 5/10
- Carmela: 5/10
Wine: Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Chardonnay
Region: California, Paso Robles
Retailer: Trader Joe’s
What we tasted and smelled in this Chardonnay:
- On the nose: Fresh cut pineapple, tropical fruit, smells sweet and sugary, a touch of oak, vanilla, butterscotch,
- In the mouth: Buttery, creamy, not a ton of acidity, subtle oak, flat or flabby, tasty, apple pie spice, caramel corn, great for oaky Chardonnay lovers.
Food to pair with this Chardonnay: fish, fried fish, sushi, spicy foods, pho, spicy noodles
- Joe: 6/10
- Carmela: 6/10
Wine: Trader Joe’s Blanc de Blancs Brut
Retailer: Trader Joe’s
What we tasted and smelled in this Blanc de Blancs Brut:
- On the nose: Smells like sugar, almost no smell, marshmallow, Lucky Charms cereal, almost no fruit, almost no smell
- In the mouth: Very sweet, no fruit, just sweet, very low flavor, tiny bit of yeast, sugar coated gummy candies, tastes like sugary candy, tiniest bit of orange, candied orange, a touch of apple.
Food to pair with this Blanc de Blancs Brut: Salty snacks, nuts, potato chips, Chex Mix, poutine, pretzels, french fries
- Joe: 5/10
- Carmela: 6/10
Which one of these are you finishing tonight?
- Carmela: Trader Joe’s Blanc de Blancs Brut
- Joe: Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Chardonnay
Taste profiles expected from Barbera, Chardonnay, and Sparkling Blanc de Blancs Brut 39:55
- From usual wines: Red fruit, such as sour cherry, strawberry, and raspberry. Dark fruit, ranging from black cherry, blackberry, and blueberry to boysenberry and plum. Warm spices (especially if aged in oak), such as star anise, nutmeg, clove, and vanilla.
- Vinopointer: Deep ruby color with aromatics of raspberry and maraschino cherries. The palate is young and fruity with flavors of dark berries, rich dark chocolate, boysenberry, and flavors of Christmas spices. Nice velvety finish and a brisk acidity that balances the mouthful of fruit nicely.
- Winemag: Its flavors range from apple and lemon to papaya and pineapple, and it also shows notes of vanilla when it's aged with oak
- Trader Joe’s: presents aromas of ripe apple on the nose, with notes of honeysuckle and toasty oak on your palate
- Blanc de Blancs Brut
- ChatGPT: Aroma: fresh and citrusy with notes of green apple, lemon, lime, and grapefruit. There may also be a hint of brioche or bread crust from the yeast used in the fermentation process. Taste: typically dry, with high acidity, and a light body. Flavors of lemon, green apple, and grapefruit dominate, along with a touch of minerality. There may also be a slight nutty or toasty note from the aging process.
Outro and how to find The Wine Pair Podcast 42:09
Ok, so, Carmela, sadly it is just about time for us to go, but before we do, we want to thank you very much again for listening to us and for your support - AND if you haven’t done so yet, now would be the perfect time to subscribe to our podcast AND also a fantastic time to leave us a nice rating and review on our website or Apple podcasts or other podcast service - and it is an awesome and free way to support us and help us grow listeners.
We would also love to hear from you about a wine you would like us to taste and review, especially if it is associated with some special event. Again, leave a message for us on our website thewinepairpodcast.com, or you can just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us about a wine you are curious about, or curious what we think of it. And, follow us on Instagram so you can see pictures of all of these wines we are tasting and reviewing.
And, we would love it if you would tell a couple of friends or family members about us, and listen to our next episode with your significant other! That sounds fun, right?!? Like a date night?!?
Alright, with that, we are going to sign off, so thanks again, and we will see you next time. And, as we say, life is short, so stop drinking shitty wine.