'Two Buck Chuck' Founder Fred Franzia Dead at 79

The industry mogul was known for making wine more affordable

Fred Franzia
Photo: Eric Risberg/AP

Fred Franzia, the creator of "Two Buck Chuck" wine, has died. He was 79.

The wine industry veteran is known for revolutionizing affordably priced wine. Bronco Wine Company, the company he founded with his brother and cousin nearly 50 years ago, shared a statement on Facebook announcing his death. According to the post, Franzia died early Tuesday morning at his home in Denair, California. They did not disclose the cause of death.

"Core to his vision was a belief that wine should be enjoyed and consumed on every American Table. 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?'" the statement read.

Not to be confused with the boxed wine brand of the same name (his parents sold their Franzia wine brand to Coca-Cola in 1973, and it's now owned by the Wine Group), Franzia is best known for his value wine collection, Charles Shaw wine. It was nicknamed "Two Buck Chuck" because it once sold at Trader Joe's for $1.99 and is still available today. (It can retail for over $4 now, according to a tweet this month.)

Franzia commented on their price in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle in 2009. "Who says we're lower priced? We're the best price. The others, I think, are overpriced," he said.

Fred Franzia holds a bottle of Charles Shaw chardonnay wine
Eric Risberg/AP

That same year, he described to the New Yorker what set his $1.99 wine apart from more expensive brands. "We make wine for the people," he said. "Napa and all their funny money — they're all getting knocked off their thrones. I'm not falling. I'm built on rock."

According to Wine Spectator, Bronco Wine Company is estimated to be one of the largest wine brands nationwide, ranking number 13.

"Due to Fred's vision, Bronco Wine Company has achieved vertical integration all while remaining family owned. His entrepreneurial spirit, tireless dedication, and his commitment to both his family and to the Bronco family will forever be remembered," the company's statement read. "His legacy will endure for generations to come."

Franzia is survived by his five children, 14 grandchildren, his brother and his two sisters.

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