Fred Franzia, the man behind “Two Buck Chuck” and other bargain-priced wines that revolutionized the industry, has died. He was 79 years old.
Bronco Wine Company, the 49-year-old business he helped start with his brother and cousin, announced his death on Facebook, writing that it is “truly saddened by the passing of its founder and CEO, Fred Franzia “. He died early Tuesday morning with his family by his side at his home in Denair, Calif., the company said.
Franzia championed affordable wine for the masses and frequently criticized its more expensive competitors. “Who said we were cheaper? We are the best price. The others, I think, are too expensive,” Franzia told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2009.
Perhaps his most notable contribution to American culture is Charles Shaw, aka “Two Buck Chuck”. The wine, sold exclusively at Trader Joe’s since 2002, has earned this moniker for its affordability that undercuts its more expensive competitors. “Take that and push it, Napa,” he once said in an interview.
“Central to his vision was the belief that wine should be enjoyed and consumed on every American table,” Bronco’s statement read. “When asked how Bronco Wine Company could sell wine for less than a bottle of water, Fred T. Franzia retorted, “They overcharge for water – don’t you understand?
Bronco Wine is one of America’s largest wine companies, with a portfolio of over 100 brands ranging from wine, spirits and ready-to-drink cocktails. Wine Spectator estimates it to be the 13th largest wine distributor in the United States, selling more than 3.4 million cases last year.
Notably, he never owned the brand of boxed wine that bears his family’s name. His parents sold the label in 1973 to Coca-Cola, prompting him to launch Bronco Wine. “My dad, he wasn’t a fighter,” Franzia told The New Yorker in 2009. “He just went to bed. And he and I went through a period of no communication, I think for five years. I was just edgy. (Franzia boxed wine is currently owned by the Wine Group.)
He is survived by his five children, fourteen grandchildren and two sisters. In the statement, Bronco said his “entrepreneurship, tireless dedication and commitment to his family and the Bronco family will be forever remembered. His legacy will endure for generations to come.