Fred Franzia, the man behind “Two Buck Chuck” and other value-priced wines that revolutionized the industry, has died. He was 79 years old.
Bronco Wine Company, the company the 49-year-old helped found with his brother and cousin, announced his death on Facebook, adding that he is “truly saddened by the passing of founder and CEO Fred Franzia.” He died early Tuesday with his family by his side at his home in Denair, California, the company said.
Franzia championed affordable wine for the masses and frequently criticized higher-priced competitors. “Who said that we are lower prices? We are the best price. The others, I think, are expensive,” Franzia told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2009.
Perhaps the most notable contributor to American culture is Charles Shaw, aka “Two Buck Chuck.” The wine, which has been sold exclusively at Trader Joe’s since 2002, earned that affordable moniker for undercutting its more expensive competitors. “Take that and push it, Napa,” he once said in an interview.
“At the core of his vision was the belief that wine should be enjoyed and consumed at every American table,” Bronco’s statement said. “When asked how the Bronco Wine Company could sell wine for less than a bottle of water, Fred T. Franzia famously said, ‘They’re charging too much for water, don’t you get it?'”
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 is the 13th largest marketer of wine in the US, moving more than 3.4 million cases last year.
Notably, he never owned the boxed wine brand that displayed his family name. His parents sold the label to Coca-Cola in 1973, resulting in the launch of Bronco Wine. “My father, he was not a fighter,” Franzia told the New Yorker in 2009. “He just folded. And he and I went through a period of no communication, I think for five years. I was angry.” (The wine in the Franzia box now belongs to the Wine Group.)
He is survived by his five children, fourteen grandchildren and two sisters. In the statement, Bronco said his “entrepreneurial spirit, tireless dedication and commitment to his family and the Bronco family will forever be remembered. His legacy will live on for generations to come.”