- The Underground Wine Letter - http://www.undergroundwineletter.com -




The Fresh and Easy chain of neighborhood markets has a line of wines named Big Kahuna that are priced at the same level as Trader Joe’s Two Buck Chuck. Recently I came across this notice:

“Our exclusive Fresh & Easy wines win a lot of awards – 600 so far – and our top-selling $1.99 Big Kahuna line has hit a milestone of 25 medals! So in honor of this achievement we’re selling eight fresh&easy Big Kahuna varietals this weekend for just $1. Yes, that’s right, a buck. ($2 in Arizona and Nevada) Grab these award-winning Big Kahuna wines on sale this weekend…. All Big Kahuna varietals have won medals in six different wine competitions, with the Big Kahuna Tempranillo and the Big Kahuna Cabernet Sauvignon most recently taking home the gold in the 2012 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.”

Since I recently did an article on Two Buck Chuck (to read that article click here [1]), I decided to take up the offer and purchased a bottle of each of the Big Kahuna wines. Here’s what Fresh & Easy says about the Big Kahuna wines:

“We named Big Kahuna in honor of Duke Kahanamoku, the original Big Kahuna. Though widely known as the father of surfing, Duke was also an actor, businessman and Olympic swimmer. With Duke’s adventurous spirit as our inspiration, we worked to create a great line of wines that are as delicious as they are affordable.”


The Big Kahuna wines and  the Two Buck Chuck wines are both non vintage. And, as far as I know, there is no way to tell the difference between the different non vintage bottlings. One obvious difference between Two Buck Chuck and Big Kahuna wines is that the Two Buck Chuck wines have a cork and Big Kahuna wines have a screw cap. But, there is one other major difference between Big Kahuna and Two Buck Chuck that I only found after buying the Big Kahuna wines. The Big Kahuna wines are sourced in Spain whereas the Two Buck Chuck wines are sourced in California. This is interesting, because this was my conclusion after tasting the Two Buck Chuck wines:

“The Final Verdict: The Blending Game saves the day for Two Buck Chuck. And, in order to get Two Buck Chuck that I liked, I had to kick it up to Three Buck Chuck. Hopefully, one of these days Trader Joe’s will come out with a premium Two Buck Chuck and call it Three Buck Chuck. This could easily be done by blending some inexpensive wines from low cost wine producing areas such as South America and Spain with wines from California. But, until that happens, take bottles and blend them to get something in your glass that you really like. Play the Blending Game!”


So before tasting the Big Kahuna wines I thought that they might be better than the Two Buck Chuck wines on the theory that wines from low cost producing areas like Spain would offer better a better quality/value relationship for very inexpensive wines. Other than that it was a first time experience for me tasting the Big Kahuna wines just as it was when I tasted the line up of Two Buck Chuck wines. However, there was another difference. The Big Kahuna (BK) wines came supplied with tasting notes from Fresh & Easy. There were two sets of notes. One was the note on each wine that came with the notice of the sales event. The second is the note that appears on the bottle. I have reproduced each of those notes for each wine in italics below the note from the Underground. Curiously, you will see that there is a difference between all three of the notes. That the Underground note would be different is understandable. That the other two notes would be different – well that is another story!

Big Kahuna Sweet White
Made with 95% Airen grapes and 5% Moscato. Pale yellow color with a faint perfume. Very light, flat, and slightly sweet. Not much depth and not much to the wine period.

BK Sweet White shows a brilliant and clean yellow color. On the nose there is a beautiful bouquet of floral and citrus. On the palate there are notes of citrus and pear with velvety-body feel and a clean balanced finish.

Rich mellow honey, delicate wildflowers and lush tropical fruit flavors come together to create a balanced, utterly refreshing white.

Big Kahuna Crisp White
Made with 100% Airen grapes. Pale yellow color with a floral, banana like perfume. Very light and very soft with a taste of over-ripe banana and not at all crisp.

BK Crisp White shows a straw color with bright green shades. There is a beautiful aroma with hints of banana and apple. The palate is light but harmonious with tropical fruit lingering in the finish.

This fresh white with hints of citrus fruit, sea breeze, and a zingy minerality, embodies everything that we think a white wine should be: precise, crisp, and refreshing.

Big Kahuna Chardonnay
Pale yellow in color with a faint floral perfume. Very light and clean with hint of apple. Pleasant, but simple.

BK Chardonnay shows off a beautiful clean and bright gold color. The aroma from the nose is a complex mixture of tropical fruits and butter notes. The palate has pleasant soft, ripe fruity flavors that are complimented by a balanced the toasty vanilla notes.

A ripe, buttery Chardonnay with vanilla, fresh melon, and apple fruit flavors.

Big Kahuna Rosé
Made from selected Tempranillo grapes. Pale red color with a golden hue and a dusty perfume. Soft with some fruit, but very little flavor.

BK Rosé is a bright and expressive color wine, with a fresh and zesty palate full of fresh red strawberry and mulberry with hints of spices.

A bright fresh rosé full of sweet strawberry and redcurrant fruit flavors.

Big Kahuna Tempranillo
Very nice color with a faint perfume. Very light with some fruit. Clean and pleasant.

BK Tempranillo displays an intense red-purple color with blue reflections. The aroma brings forth a bouquet of red fruits, ripe berries and Mediterranean mountains. This gives way to the tannic yet harmonious palate that is full of red fruit and a meaty finish.

A light and fruity red wine with flavors of strawberry and raspberry on the nose and palate.

Big Kahuna Merlot
Very nice color with a faint perfume showing a hint of plum. Pleasant, light and soft with  hints of plum.

BK Merlot possesses an intense red color with a bright violet rim. The nose presents powerful spices intertwined with the juicy red and black fruits. The palate is expressive and meaty with ripe tannins that produce a beautiful long finish of plums and blackberries.

A ripe and rounded Merlot with notes of plum, blackberry, and a hint of spice.

Big Kahuna Shiraz
Very nice color with a faint perfume of berry fruit. Pleasant, soft and rounded with some berry fruit and a clean finish.

BK Shiraz shines a beautiful ruby color with violet like rims. The aroma is full of red fruits and slight floral notes. There palate is fresh, with adequate acidity and sweet tannins which provide a powerful and long finish in the mouth.

The Shiraz is a fruit driven red with notes of blackcurrant and blackberry. A well rounded wine with a peppery finish.

Big Kahuna Cabernet Sauvignon
Very nice color with a faint green pepper perfume. Some fruit, but light and dominated by a herbal, green pepper quality.

BK Cabernet Sauvignon shows off a beautiful and intense carmine red color with violet rims. The nose brings forth beautiful and concentrated blackcurrant and blackberry with hints of spice. The palate comes through with a long finish of black fruit, toasty vanilla, with dark chocolate.

A medium bodied red packed with blackcurrant and dark cherry fruit with firm rounded tannins.

 The Verdict On Big Kahuna

I took advantage of the ½ price deal and got 8 wines for 8 bucks. Not on sale, the wines would cost twice as much. The Shiraz was the best and the Chardonnay, Merlot, and Tempranillo were pleasant. I did not bother with blending this time around, but these four wines would be great to use in the Blending Game. The Crisp White, Rosé, and Cabernet Sauvignon were forgettable and the Sweet White was not much of anything at all. But, because the wines are non vintage, there is no way to know if you are buying the same wine every time. However, that might be a good thing. And, like the Two Buck Chuck wines, these are wines whose primary appeal is the very low price. For a few more bucks there are much better wines out there. My advice to the Big Kahuna people is to take advantage of their sources in Spain and come out with a red and white wine that is at a higher quality level, yet at a compelling price point – say 3 bucks or so. That would offer consumers a real choice.  As it is there is not a lot of difference between Two Buck Chuck and Big Kahuna at the same price point. If you like them, drink them. But, from the Underground view, the best of them can be improved by playing the Blending Game (to read the latest Blending Game article with links to previous Blending Game articles click here [2]and the worst of them are best left on the shelf.


In Vino Veritas,Sig

John Tilson