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News Alert: Wine Industry Iconoclast Fred Franzia Dies At 79

September 13, 2022

Fred T. Franzia, cofounder of Bronco Wine Company, has died at the age of 79. “Bronco Wine Company is truly saddened by the passing of its Founder and CEO, Fred Franzia,” the company said in a statement. “The family asks that you respect their privacy in their time of mourning and advises that a more formal announcement will be forthcoming.”

According to a letter to Bronco employees today reported by Wine Industry Insight, Franzia passed away early this morning at his Redwood home in Denair, California, with family by his side.

In the letter, Franzia’s daughter Renata shared a quote from her father, “We are fighting a good fight and at the end, we all have an expiration date.” The letter added that “Fred has been private about health issues and we appreciate all your support during this time.”

Franzia founded Bronco with his brother Joseph S. Franzia alongside their first cousin, John G. Franzia on Christmas Day of 1973. The company became perhaps best known for its 2002 launch, Charles Shaw, or “Two Buck Chuck,” which sold exclusively at Trader Joe’s for $1.99 a bottle and moved nearly 2 million cases in its first year, reaching 5 million cases a year later. Today, Impact Databank estimates the brand at about 1 million cases.

The company letter today noted, “When asked how Bronco Wine Company can sell wine cheaper than a bottle of water, Fred T. Franzia famously retorted, ‘They’re overcharging for the water – don’t you get it?'”

According to Impact Databank, Bronco Wine Co. today remains the 13th largest wine marketer in the U.S., with 2021 volume of 3.4 million cases.

Franzia is survived by his five children, Renata, Roma, Joseph, Joey, Carlo, and Giovanna; fourteen grandchildren; his brother, Joseph; and his sisters, Joellen and Catherine.—Daniel Marsteller

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