Bronco Wine Company, the 49-year-old company he helped create with his brother and cousin, announced his death on Facebook, writing that it's "truly saddened by the passing of its founder and CEO, Fred Franzia." He passed away early Tuesday morning 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 his higher-priced competitors. "Who says we're lower priced? We're the best price. The others, I think, are overpriced," Franzia told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2009.
Perhaps his most notable contribution to American culture is Charles Shaw, a.k.a. "Two Buck Chuck." The wine, sold exclusively at Trader Joe's since 2002, earned that nickname for its affordable price that undercuts its higher-priced competitors. "Take that and shove it, Napa," he once said in an interview.
"Core to his vision was a belief that wine should be enjoyed and consumed on every American table," Bronco's statement said. "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?'"
Bronco Wine is one of Ameria's biggest wine companies, with a portfolio of more than 100 brands spanning from wine, spirits and ready-to-drink cocktails. Wine Spectator estimates that it's the 13th largest wine marketer in the US, moving more than 3.4 million cases last year.
Notably, he never owned the boxed-wine brand that bares his family's name. His parents sold the label in 1973 to Coca-Cola prompting him to start Bronco Wine. "My dad, 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 just was pissed." (Franzia boxed wine is currently owned by the Wine Group.)
He's survived by his five children, fourteen grandchildren and two sisters. In the statement, Bronco said that his "entrepreneurial spirit, tireless dedication, and his commitment to both his family and to the Bronco family will forever be remembered. His legacy will endure for generations to come."