Back in the 80s, I used to buy cheap wine, usually at Trader Joe's. It was a buck or two a bottle. The difference between that wine and Two Buck Chuck, of today, was that it was small batch wine, made by serious wineries, that they couldn't sell, versus wine produced in huge volumes, using San Joaquin Valley grapes, specifically for sale at a low price.
Honestly, the Two Buck Chuck is a much better deal. The commercial wine making process has come a long way in the last 20-30 years. Winemakers used to crush the grapes and leave the juice on the grape skins, stems and what few leaves might still be in the mix for way too long, hoping to produce a wine with complex flavors and give the natural yeasts on the skins plenty of time to activate. What they often got was wine that had way too much acidic tannins and vegetal components and if they were nearly undrinkable, would be pronounced "big" and worthy of further aging in the bottle. Two Buck Chuck is strained off the must right away. There's plenty of yeasts in the mix already and if they need to get the fermentation process going quickly, they can add some commercially produced yeast strains that they know won't produce any nasty flavors as a bi product of fermentation. They're fresh, have lots of fruit and you can quaff them down 'til you slide under the table
A lot of "big", California, boutique wines in the 80s got sold off cheap through outlets like Trader Joe's for a buck or two a bottle because they were pretty hard to drink. I used to buy a bottle of any wine I thought might be interesting, take it home, crack it open and if it wasn't too chunky and didn't dissolve the gums away from my teeth immediately, go right back and buy a few more bottles for my closet wine cellar. At one point I probably had 120 bottles or so. That's twelve cases. Probably cost me closer to $100 than $200. Were talking economical drunk here, if you don't factor in future costs for dental prostheses and treatment for mouth and throat cancer.
I have a bunch of this stuff, still from the 80s, even a few from the late 70s. It's had plenty of time to age and my hall closet isn't that bad of a place to age wine, all things considered. When I decant one of these there is a thick crust of sediment and purple/black crystalline particulate stuck on the side of the bottle that was facing down. Some of it is a lot better than it was. Mostly they're still pretty "big" though. At this point, these wines are like a woman who was never really pretty when she was young but has taken good care of herself and whatever flaws kept her from attractiveness when she was young, now give her aging features character. She's still not pretty but you suspect she'd be a lot more fun to fuck than your best friend's cheerleader daughter and a hell of a lot more accessible and appropriate. Then, you move in for a little hug and peck on the cheek, get a quick whiff and bingo, it's boner time. The joys of maturity.
If we're going to somebody's house for dinner, sometimes I take along a bottle or two of my wine stash as a hostess gift. Most people don't like real red wine unless it's light, sweet and frothy, so I never get too many raves about it. They like that it's 25 years old though, so my investment of a dollar or two a bottle paid off.