Here's a great post on the blog of Eric Asimov regarding bronco wines, the people who make "Two Buck Chuck", the nickname for the Charles Shaw wines sold at Trader Joe's. Here's a taste:
"Two-Buck Chuck fits in with this tradition. No, it’s not flawed. Very little wine is flawed in this day and age, now that we understand the science of winemaking and the importance of hygiene and temperature control in the mass-production of wines. But it is insipid. Wine-lovers today don’t need to fear flawed wines so much as dull, uninteresting wines."
I would be harder on the owner, Fred Franzia, than Mr. Asimov is. He and his kind have managed to convince huge numbers of people that wine is a simple commodity, like milk or garbage bags, and that price is the main consideration. His claim that no wine should cost more than $10 is not only absurd, I don't think even he believes that. That would be like telling me that because McDonald's sells burgers that are palatable for a couple of bucks, you should never spend more than that on a burger. Or because Wal-Mart sells dresses for cheaper than Nieman Marcus, you should always shop at Wal-Mart. These observations are no less ridiculous when applied to wine.
It's not that you can't find great wines under $10 - we sell many in that price range and stand by their quality. But they don't come from huge wine companies, they come from real winemakers who care about quality. And Mr. Asimov is also right that when you're willing to go between $10-$20, quality goes up quite a bit. I think the best value in our whole collection is the Puzelat Le Telquel, for $13.99. Best under $15 wine I've ever tasted. It wasn't made by some big, faceless wine company with revenues in the millions, it was made by one guy in Touraine, France.