Franzia shakes up wine industry again

The Franzia boys are at it again. John, Joseph and the terrible tormenter Fred Franzia will forever be the talk of the U.S. wine industry with their Two-Buck Chuck.

They now have taken aim at Australia to become the nemesis of the wine industry there.

When the Franzia boys’ Bronco winery came out with $2 per bottle Charles Shaw wine seven years ago, everyone expected it to fade when a surplus of wine disappeared. Some 400 million bottles later, Two-Buck Chuck has proven it is no California Cooler or Bartles and Jaymes.

People still ask about Two Buck Chuck. It still leaves Trader Joe’s by the cases. Even now I chuckle recalling several years ago seeing the owner of an Idaho-licensed Dodge dually diesel pickup loading several cases of Two Buck Chuck into the truck bed at a Trader Joe’s in Fresno.

Bronco, the fourth largest winery in the state, followed Chuck with a $4 bottle carrying an honest-to-goodness Napa appellation. It has been unceremoniously labeled “Four Buck Fred.” Don’t know if the Franzias have made any money off of it, but Freddy has certainly enjoyed giving the business end of the corkscrew to Napa Valley growers and vintners once again. Two Buck Chuck is bottled in a huge warehouse in Napa, thus it carries a Napa address on the label, much to the mortification of Napa and North Coast wineries. Chuck is freeway-aged in stainless tankers driving from the Central Valley wineries to the Napa bottling plant that can package 55,000 cases of wine per day.

With irrepressible and arrogant Freddy entrenched as either the villain or hero of California wine depending on who you are talking to about him, he is now after the same status in Australia with “Down Under,” a half-price version of Yellow Tail, the Australian brand that put Australia on the wine mainstream in the U.S.

It has been dubbed “Three Dolla Koala” and the Chardonnay varietal gleaned from overflowing Australian bulk wine tanks will sell for about $3 per bottle at where else, Trader Joe’s.

“It’s time that the American consumer paid the correct price for Australian wine,” he said. “They’ve been overpaying for it.”

The Franzias, most notably Fred, have become the vintners people in the wine industry either totally despise or reluctantly give at least tacit credit for carrying the California wine industry quicker through the inevitable oversupply years.

The May 18 issue of The New Yorker magazine profiled the arrogant and successful Fred Franzia. It is worth the read. Fred had to enjoy it since it described him as a silver haired, overweight 65 year old who looks like a gourmet marshmallow endowed with a smile that steals wickedly across his face. Author Dana Goodyear did a good job on the piece.

Freddy’s spin on the industry that has made a convicted felon a multi-millionaire is that no wine is worth more than $10 per bottle. I tend to agree with him, at least from the perspective that Americans would drink and enjoy far more wine if it was first affordable and secondly devoid of all the baloney that somehow always accompanies selecting wine.

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TAGS: Grapes
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