Franzia's good quality $1.99 brand credited for U.S. wine resurgence

  • 1/24/2006: A1: Fred Franzia

    PC: ** FILE ** Fred Franzia, CEO of Bronco Wine Co., gestures during an interview in his combination conference and tasting room at the winery's headquarters in Ceres, Calif., Jan. 11, 2005. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, Jan. 23, 2006 declined to hear an appeal from Bronco Wine Co. in its long-running legal challenge to the law that requires that wine with "Napa" on the label be made from Napa grapes. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

Sometimes Fred Franzia sounds like Ralph Nader in vineyard boots.

Like when Franzia, the man behind Charles Shaw Wines, the brand so famously nicknamed Two-Buck Chuck because of its $1.99 price tag, says, "The American consumer is looking for reasonably priced, quality beverages; Charles Shaw proved to the American consumer that good quality wine does not have to be expensive."

Other times, the CEO of Bronco Wine Co. sounds like the industry's worst nightmare, a slayer of major dragons. Take these classic Franzia utterances:

"No bottle of wine is worth more than $10."

"Does anybody complicate Cheerios by saying the wheat has to be grown on the side of a mountain and the terroir in North Dakota is better than Kansas and all this horses---t?"

And, "California wine shouldn't be divided up into these little oligopoly appellations. They try to create a myth to keep the consumer from buying other people's wine."

While Franzia is good at playing the part of curmudgeon/consumer advocate, that's not why people buy his wine -- a seismic 300 million bottles of Two-Buck Chuck in five years, thank you very much. They buy it because it's decent juice at an unbelievable price, undercutting a cargo ship's worth of imports, Central Valley box wines and even, in some cases, beer.

Franzia "is almost single-handedly responsible for an increase in wine consumption among consumers in the United States," wrote Alder Yarrow of Vinography.com in a blog entry entitled, "Fred Franzia: Great Businessman or Wine Antichrist?"

"I believe strongly that Two-Buck Chuck was the catalyst that kicked off a surge of interest in wine," he continued, "and a reduction in the intimidation that consumers feel about wine."

Its quality-vs.-price ratio is truly astounding, Charles Shaw wines having won their share of medals at official tastings, proving themselves drinkable and adding to the buzz.

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