So first things first: I am no sommelier. Despite attending various wine tastings with my wine-collecting father, to his disappointment I still cannot identify traces of nutmeg in a red wine. Nor do I even know if that is something that is tasted in red wine... see my point? Although I will admit I get quite the thrill from swishing and smelling the wine as if I know what I'm doing.

Disclaimer aside, I would (with a mix of embarrassment and pride) declare myself quite the expert when it comes to cheap wines. Through a series of uncontrollable events (read: four years of being a poor college student), I have worked my way through many a bottle of Trader Joe's "Charles Shaw," most commonly and warmly known as Two Buck Chuck.

Though its cutesy nickname derives from the original and 11-year-long price of $1.99, Trader Joe's recently hiked the cost to a RIDICULOUS $2.49 in California, and an even more ridiculous $2.99 in other states (which has led to the new, much less catchy 'Three Buck Chuck' nickname). Despite my frustration at having to part with an extra $0.49 - $1.00 (plus tax!), I didn't jump ship quite yet.

However, there is something that may have a stronger impact on our loyalty -- a copycat bottle that has sprung up at Whole Foods, for the exact same price. Our preference for originals aside, we had to investigate how this compared as Chuck's doppleganger. So, as our team tends to like any excuse to drink at work, we rallied the office troops and staged a test test that ensured nobody got much of anything done for the rest of the day. Check out the slideshow below for the results of a very tight race.

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  • First Impressions

    The bottle of Three Wishes is much, much prettier than Two/Three Buck Chuck's. Though this is a purely superficial observation, there is something about an attractive bottle that made us feel a little bit better about drinking dirt cheap wine.

  • Chardonnay

    <strong>Two/Three Buck Chuck</strong> Average score: 5.5/10 <strong>Three Wishes</strong> Average score: 5/10 Trader Joe's took the first round of this taste-off, with comments including "velvety smooth," "I would drink that on a hot day," and that it had "brighter, purer flavors" than the Three Wishes' bottle.

  • Merlot

    <strong>Two/Three Buck Chuck</strong> Average score: 4.9/10 <strong>Three Wishes</strong> Average score: 4.6/10 Although the Trader Joe's variety barely won this round, it was clear that most everyone hates merlot.

  • Cabernet Sauvignon

    <strong>Two/Three Buck Chuck</strong> Average score: 5.1/10 <strong>Three Wishes</strong> Average score: 5.7/10 Three Wishes' only win was earned by the ease going down, "totally drinkable" taste, and "fruity" flavors.

  • Summary

    First of all, this taste test was way closer than we expected. Each round was won by a margin of .6 points or less. According to our tasters, Trader Joe's sells a better Chardonnay and Merlot, but Three Wishes should be your go-to for a cheap Cabernet Sauvignon. But perhaps most importantly, we hope they don't continue to raise prices on these wines, because we're not sure either brand is worth much more than $2.99...