The Contentious History Behind Fred Franzia And The Franzia Wine Company

You may not immediately recognize the name Charles Shaw wines, but to those fluent in pop culture lingo, Two Buck Chuck, its endearing moniker, has become synonymous with affordable wine. Its creator, Fred Franzia, recently died at age 79, but his legacy will live on in the three-word phrase his products helped spawn that is now part of the cheap wine-drinking lexicon.

Never one to shy away from a good debate over his low prices, when Franzia was once asked how he could sell wine for less than a bottle of water, he replied, "They're overcharging for water — don't you get it?" (via The New York Times). His Two Buck Chuck wines have been sold under the Charles Shaw label as the house wine brand for Trader Joe's since 2002.

The cost remained around $1.99 a bottle for many years, though prices currently range between $2 and $4 (per Quartz). While a folk hero to many people drinking on a shoestring budget, Franzia did have a bit of a contentious history with the wine company that bears his name.

Verbal sparring over boxed wine

The Franzia family is the owner of Bronco Wine Company, which makes and distributes Charles Shaw wines. Fred Franzia co-founded it in 1973 along with his brother, Joseph, and cousin, John. His vision was to create "high quality wines at value for wine consumers" (via Bronco Wine Company).

When you think of the name Franzia, your mind may automatically associate it with another cheap wine brand, Franzia boxed wine. It was once owned by the same Franzia family, but Franzia Brothers Winery was sold to Coca-Cola in 1973 prior to the launch of Bronco Wine Company. The decision to sell the family winery infuriated Fred and it even led to a serious rift with his father Joseph in which they were not on speaking terms for years (per NPR).

In a 2009 interview with The New Yorker, he recalled of that period, "My dad he was not a fighter. He just folded. And he and I went through a period of no communication, I think for five years." Rather than work for Coke, Fred and his aforementioned family members established Bronco Wine Company ... and the rest is super value wine history.