Fred Franzia, Man Behind ‘Two Buck Chuck’ Wine, Dead at 79

by Lauren Boisvert

Pioneer of affordable wine, Fred Franzia, died on Tuesday at age 79. Franzia’s family and the Bronco Wine Company, which Franzia founded with his brother and cousin in 1973, announced his death. “Core to his vision was a belief that wine should be enjoyed and consumed on every American Table,” said the Bronco Co. in a statement. “When asked how Bronco Wine Company can sell wine less expensive than a bottle of water, Fred T. Franzia famously countered, ‘They’re overcharging for the water — don’t you get it?'”

Franzia also created the Charles Shaw brand, which made the famous Two Buck Chuck exclusively sold at Trader Joe’s. He had a strict belief that wine drinkers should never have to pay more than $10 for a bottle. Two Buck Chuck’s price has gone up slightly, now around $3.79 a bottle in some places, but its cultural significance has stayed, and it’s a staple of frugal wine drinkers everywhere.

But, Franzia’s wines aren’t just throwaway booze to get you tipsy for less money. They’re flavorful, delightfully fruity, and award-winning. The 2002 Charles Shaw Shiraz won the coveted double gold at the 2004 International Eastern Wine Competition. It was up against 2,300 other wins for the award, and this one-dollar, ninety-nine-cent wine beat out all competition.

Fred Franzia’s Legacy: Rich, Flavorful Wines That Juxtapose Their Incredibly Affordable Price

Carol Emert, a wine columnist at the time of the competition, told Morning Edition that she wasn’t at all surprised. “The flavor profile of Charles Shaw tends to be very fruit forward, very likable, very approachable,” she said. “It has a surprising amount of tannin and other types of complexity which is why people are so wowed by the fact that they can get it for $2. It doesn’t taste like a cheap, simple syrupy wine.”

Franzia was not involved in the creation of Franzia boxed wines, though, despite his name being on the side. According to a report from Wine Spectator, the Franzia family once owned the brand, but Fred’s father sold the rights to Coca-Cola. All this before Fred founded Bronco Wine Company. Franzia painstakingly made sure that Bronco Co. was always family-owned throughout the years.

“His entrepreneurial spirit, tireless dedication, and his commitment to both his family and to the Bronco family will forever be remembered,” said the company. “His legacy will endure for generations to come.”

So, when you go shopping for wine–scouring the sugary Moscato, past the overpriced bubbly, skimming your fingers over bottles of rosé–and you find that blessed $2 bottle, you have Fred Franzia to thank for that.