Two Buck Chuck Creator: An Articulate Guy
It’s hard to get a handle on Fred Franzia, CEO of Bronco Wine Company and producer of Two Buck Chuck, among other wine brands. Reading about his life and attitudes and beliefs in the latest issue of INC, you get the impression this is a man who will pull no punches and go after the things he wants in a fairly direct fashion. Among the brands owned by Bronco Wine Company are: ForestVille, Estrella, Charles Shaw, Montpellier, Grand Cru, Silver
Ridge, Rutherford Vintners, Hacienda, FoxHollow, and Napa Ridge.
The problem is that Franzia doesn’t exactly engender love and respect from others in the wine industry. It’s surely his tendency to say EXACTLY what’s on his mind that results in this unappreciative response. But let’s let Fred tell you himself.
They are "a bunch of whiners"
Fred on Napa Valley Vintners
"Why complicate it? Does anyone 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 horseshit?"
Fred, on the idea of appellation
Fred on excessive retail mark ups.
"They rape the consumer"
Fred on Restaurants’ wine mark ups
"They’re expertise is talking about themselves and saying they are experts."
Fred on the Wine Spectator and Robert Parker
"I don’t socialize anywhere. There’s no money to be made in socializing"
Fred on getting out.
"I defy anyone that charges more money (than he does for his wines) to let me conduct a blind tasting. He’ll look like a fool with his own wine."
Fred on the quality of his cheap wines.
"They tattooed me, so fine. Do I look like I’m worried about it? Does it look like it’s killed our company?"
Fred on having to pay a $2.5 million fine after being convicted of conspiracy to defraud for representing cheap grapes as more expensive grapes.
"They don’t impress me one bit."
Fred on Napa Valley winemakers.
"They try to create a myth to keep the consumer from buying other people’s wines."
Fred on Napa Valley’s objection to the use of the term "Napa" on wines that have little Napa fruit.
"These fucking guys have no mind-games capability. Guys like that are no challenge to me."
Fred on losing a court battle with Napa Valley over the use of the word "Napa" on a bottle with little or no Napa Fruit, then responding with the release of "Four-Buck Chuck" made with Napa fruit.
Fred Franzia is clearly a smart guy. He clearly is giving many of the consumers out there what they want. And, he’s clearly successful. More important, he sure does make for good copy.
Thing is, labels like Montpellier and Hacienda and Silver Ridge are pretty unbeatable in their price ranges, though for some reason I’ve never cared for the ForestVille wines. Franzia’s obviously a force-of-nature sort of guy, but it was unconscionable what he did with “Napa” Ridge and messing about with “Napa” grapes; he can pooh-pooh the idea of appellation all he wants, but he WANTED consumers to think that those wines were made from Napa grapes because of the prestige. The Cheerios analogy is amusing, but it doesn’t work.
His remarks as transcribed here are a little more “colorful” than those that appeared in Blake Gray’s piece in the Chron! This version seems a lot more true to his personality.
Despite his Cheerios routine, this sort of exposure is all upside for him, particularly his challenge to any Napa winemaker to put their wine up against his. There’s no way he can lose on this one, because even if the boutique producer’s wine ‘wins’, Fred still gets a million bucks worth of publicity.
Frankly, most of the people who buy wines from the Bronco lineup aren’t going to be all that interested in the small production wines that he’s railing against. It’d be about the same thing if I were to compare my PR firm to Fleishman-Hillard or Ogilvy. Same universe, just different planets…
Fred Franzia is to wine as Bose is to speakers. Problem is, most people think Bose is a good speaker brand because that’s all they know. (That and you can’t open a magazine without seeing a Bose ad.) Same rings true with Franzia wines – the majority of people can’t or simply don’t care if there is a difference. They feel sophisticated drinking wine with dinner no matter how much it costs. But you know what? That’s fine. When people ask me what I think of Bose I simply put it back on them, “Do you like Bose”? If the answer is yes then that’s all that matters. If they like Two Buck Chuck then that’s all that matters. (Hey, at least they’ve graduated from White Zinfandel – think of Franzia wines as “gateway wines”.) Now, having said that, Mr. Franzia shouldn’t be allowed to misrepresent his wares. And if I were him I’d watch out for the up and coming “virtual wineries” that can actually produce some quality wine slightly above his price range with a lot less overhead and a much better marketing team. See http://www.wineryexchange.com and http://www.rainierwine.com.
Just because a lot of his wines are crap doesn’t mean he isn’t right about the self-regarding bullshit he sees and hears all around him.
On the issue of misrepresentation. You are not going to expect to see where the tomatoes came from on a bottle of ketchup, but you will see a list of ingredients. I never tasted a bottle of 2 buck chuck from this loudmouth asshole, but the issue isn`t this guy using the word Napa on the label, the issue is a system that allows him to use the word Napa on the label. If he needed mega purple, or 2% RS, or any other additive to make it palatable so be it. But the time has come surely for a complete list of ingredients on all wines sold in the US and a clear statement of where the grapes came from, in percentage terms.
Tried a bottle of Napa Ridge, years ago and thought it was mediocre stuff at best. I learned better after years of winemaking and trying different stuff. I don’t actually know if he owned the Napa Ridge brand back in 1996 though. actually thought it was from Napa California. Boy have I learned a lot since then. This guy is working on the cheap ass end of the market and quality means nothing except how low people will go to buy what some politely call wine. Another economic note: If anyone thinks that wine grape growers can make money at $2.00 a bottle than you gotta another thing coming. A sustainable price at this point in time for a drinkable wine with consistency is probably around $8.00 to $10.00. At this price point at least you know the wine isn’t closeout and it’s a little easier for the winemaker to continue to put quality in the bottle.
The guy is a genus, don’t hate congradulate!
Fred Franzia and Two Buck Chuck are one of a kind American originals!
“One of a kind American original”….no argument there. But is that a good thing in this case.
The enitre Napa Valley winemaking region is wrong, and he’s right. Uh-huh.