We compared Target’s new $5 wines against Trader Joe’s cheapest options — and the winner is crystal clear

Target and Trader Joe's both sell extremely cheap bottles of wine. But who does it best?

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Target and Trader Joe’s both sell extremely cheap bottles of wine. But who does it best?
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Hollis Johnson

  • Target has a house brand wine that’s only $5 a bottle.
  • It’s a direct competitor of Trader Joe’s legendarily cheap store label.
  • Both brands’ reds are surprisingly good – but for the selection, Trader Joe’s offers the better deal.

Ruthless millennials have placed the beer industry square in their crosshairs, and retailers are taking notice.

Target has just added a new rosé to its line of cheaply priced wines – every bottle is $5 – which could be a smart move to attract thrifty millennial oenophiles. Trader Joe’s has long been the go-to for cheap, decent wines for those in the know, but Target’s new line could draw some attention.

We grabbed some bottles of Target’s new California Roots line and pitted them against similarly priced options from Trader Joe’s. We were curious to see if Target could unseat the famed “Two Buck Chuck” from its perch atop the cheap wine throne.


Every bottle of Target’s California Roots wine is $5. It’s an extremely, almost suspiciously fair price, though it is higher than Trader Joe’s iconic “Two Buck Chuck” wines, which now go for $2.99 in most locations.

Target and Trader Joe's both sell extremely cheap bottles of wine. But who does it best?

source
Hollis Johnson

California Roots offers a cabernet, a red blend, a pinot grigio, a moscato, a rosé, and a chardonnay. We managed to find everything but the last.

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Hollis Johnson

At Trader Joe’s, the Charles Shaw label offers cabernet and pinot grigio, as well as several other varietals. To compare to Target’s red blend, moscato, and rosé, we found wines at Trader Joe’s that match their price point: a Terrain Vineyards California red blend for $3.99, a Blue Fin California moscato for $4.49, and an Emma Reichart pinot noir rosé for $4.99.

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Hollis Johnson

Let’s start with the reds — specifically, the cabernets.

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Hollis Johnson

Trader Joe’s cabernet feels a little light and watery for what it is. It’s not as full-bodied as one might expect. There’s a fair amount of tannin-induced pucker in each sip — a kind of tartness that runs bitter and dry.

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Hollis Johnson

In contrast, Target’s cabernet feels incredibly silky and smooth on the tongue, with a rich and full-bodied, fruity flavor.

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Hollis Johnson

Next up: the red blends. As blends of multiple varietals, by nature they can be designed to appeal to consumers’ tastes: a mediocre pinot can be thrown in with a fruity, rich, and tannin-filled syrah to make a balanced and beautiful blend.

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Hollis Johnson

We chose the Terrain Vineyards California red blend at Trader Joe’s due to its similar price point — but for $4, it’s actually not too bad. It’s a very full and velvety sip with notes of chocolate and dark berries lurking throughout.

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Hollis Johnson

California Roots’ red blend pales in comparison. For a dollar more, this blend is smooth yet thin, with no real distinct flavor standing out. It’s like a safe, dull table wine. One taste-tester commented on its high “chuggability,” which is worrying in retrospect.

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Hollis Johnson

Now, onto the pinot grigios.

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Hollis Johnson

The Two Buck Chuck version is light, floral, and sweet — almost too sweet, but not outrageously so. There’s a nice hint of green apple with an acidic brightness that cuts through the sugar and brings a touch of tartness, keeping the wine from veering into totally sweet territory.

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Hollis Johnson

However, there’s not much to get at all from Target’s pinot grigio. It’s certainly sweet — alarmingly sweet for a pinot grigio. There’s no sense of dryness or acidic citrus zest.

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Hollis Johnson

Now, the moscatos — the sweet whites. Admittedly, none of the taste-testers were fans of moscato, which made tasting objectively difficult. But we plied onward.

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Hollis Johnson

The moscato purchased from Trader Joe’s is from California: Blue Fin. We chose it due to its California origin and its low cost — $4.49 a bottle. The wine is … decidedly sugary, which makes sense given it’s moscato. It has the slightest crispness, but it’s easily dulled among the fruity waves of sweetness.

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Hollis Johnson

However, Target’s moscato fares far worse. Upon uncorking, we immediately recognize the wine’s unsettlingly familiar bouquet: Froot Loops. We then confirmed this scent with several third parties. It indeed smells like Froot Loops. As far as taste goes, it’s sugar water. This is definitely going to be someone’s first wine experience that turns south fast.

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Hollis Johnson

At last, the glorified drink of summer: rosé. Rosé gains its light pink hue from contact with the skins of the grapes — but not enough contact to qualify it as a true red wine. It’s an in-between. Rosé was hugely popular in the ’60s and ’70s and has enjoyed a huge resurgence in the last decade or so.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Surprisingly, Trader Joe’s doesn’t have its own house brand of rosé, so we chose something from their extensive selection. This Emma Reichart is the exact price as Target’s new rosé — $5 — and seems to be popular. And it’s easy to see why: it’s a light, floral, yet dry wine with very little astringency.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

It’s also, according to the aforementioned taste-tester, “extremely chuggable.”


Target’s rosé, on the other hand, is a lighter and weaker affair. It’s also rather floral in taste with a sweeter bouquet, but it feels syrupy on the tongue.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

So, what are the verdicts?

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Hollis Johnson

It seems both bargain brands’ strengths are reds. We really enjoyed Target’s California Roots cabernet — it’s glossy and plush with bold and well-balanced flavors.

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Hollis Johnson

But Target’s red blend leaves much to be desired, and their pinot grigio is eerily sweet, while their moscato is blatantly so. So were it up to us, we’d head to Trader Joe’s for the selection. With that being said, wine is for personal enjoyment, so choose what feels best to you.

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Hollis Johnson