Why The Franzia Family Stepped Away From Their Wine Company

The story behind Franzia wine is one of a tough immigrant family who made it through challenges like Prohibition and the Great Depression to be one of the top sellers of wine in the United States, only to sell the company decades later.

Claiming to be "The World's Most Popular Wine," Franzia has been selling vino for more than a century, according to its website. The company was founded by Teresa Carrara, who came to the United States from Italy and began to grow grapes in 1906. Once there, she married Guiseppe Franzia, and they purchased 80 acres of land in California. Three decades later, after Guiseppe decided to retire and visit Italy, Teresa made a bold move and opened up Franzia Brothers Winery with her five sons, per the company. By the late 1960s, Franzia Brothers Winery was selling 16 million gallons of wine annually, and in the 1980s, it created wine in a box. The Franzia farm remains in operation in Ripon, California, but is operated by The Wine Group, which is not affiliated with the Franzia family, according to the Manteca/Ripon Bulletin. However, it does work with the Franzia label to produce wine. While the wine packaged in a plastic bag inside a box may be most closely associated with the name Franzia, the winery's founding family had nothing to do with its creation, having it sold in 1973, according to Manteca/Ripon Bulletin.

An offer they couldn't refuse

In the early 1970s, three of the five Franzia brothers decided to make a change: sell their shares of Franzia Brothers Winery to an investment firm, according to The New Yorker. The firm then took the company public, and shortly after, in 1973, Coca-Cola bought Franzia Brothers Winery for $50 million. At the same time, Fred Franzia, a descendant of Teresa and Guiseppe Franzia, opened Bronco Wine Company with one of his brothers and a cousin, reports NPR. They built a brand of wine based on cost, always aiming to sell inexpensive wine. Part of the company's claim to fame was the creation of the Charles Shaw brand that Trader Joe's sold for $1.99 a bottle for many years, earning the nickname "Two Buck Chuck." Fred Franzia died at age 79 on September 13, 2022.

Before his death, he shared his views on the Franzia family selling the original winery. According to The New Yorker, the fact that the family relinquished control of the business and that, in his opinion, his father gave up continued to upset Fred Franzia. It even caused a long-lasting rift between the two men. He told the magazine in 2009, "My dad, he was not a fighter... He just folded. And he and I went through a period of no communication, I think for five years. I was just pissed."

While the Franzia family may no longer operate their namesake, the family's legacy in the wine industry lives on.