RIP Fred Franzia

Last week the wine world lost one of its more colorful figures, Fred Franzia. He was the founder of Bronco Wine Company (which has a very large and diverse portfolio,) but is best known as the company behind Charles Shaw (aka Two Buck Chuck,) which has sold over a billion bottles since its re-introduction via Trader Joe's stores around twenty years ago.

By many accounts he was a cantankerous jerk who reveled in thumbing his nose at the wine establishment. And, while there is a lot of disagreement over whether he did more harm than good, those closest to him are most certainly mourning his passing. 

Never having met the man, I can't comment on who he was as a person, but I do share some of his sentiment regarding Napa Valley and wine snobs who take themselves (and wine) too seriously. I also haven't tasted Charles Shaw in over a decade, and I probably won't in the decade to come, but there is room amidst the pithy non-obituaries (many of which read as good riddance) to appreciate one aspect of the revolution Franzia ignited with his ridiculously cheap wine: bringing more people into the fold.

If we can agree that some people feel better about themselves and the people around them when drinking wine, then more people drinking wine is a good thing for society - regardless of the quality wine. Is a product like Two Buck Chuck really a gateway drug of sorts for light beer drinkers? I'll defer to the volume statistic above. Less clear is whether consumers experimenting with Charles Shaw trade up into wines made with consciousness, but perfection shouldn't be the enemy of good. And here's hoping none of us are judged using perfection as the bar when our time comes.