Things haven’t always gone well for Charles Shaw, the man behind the bargain booze known as “Two Buck Chuck.” For one, Shaw actually wanted to keep his wine business, but he lost that in a bitter divorce. And while he went on to make a decent living selling software that “monitors cardiac surgery,” Shaw was forced to watch as the wine that bears his name was torn down in the public forum—first hijacked by none other than box-wine king Fred Franzia and then morphed into a pseudo Napa Valley wine that sold for a (seemingly preposterous $2), earning the ire of some of the region’s most influential wine professionals.
Well, poor Shaw has to weep no longer. The wine that bears his name has suffered its last—and apparently fatal—blow at the hands of that big bully we call the Internet. That’s right, folks. Everyone’s favorite, almost unbelievably affordable wine will be pulled from the shelves on May 31, 2016 due to margin pressures induced by slumping sales. The cause: a derogatory article published on Quora in 2011, since deleted, but not before it was was turned into a viral sensation by the Huffington Post in August 2014. The article, written by wine professional Chris Knox, accused Franzia—owner of Bronco Wines—of utilizing sloppy, and even dangerous, shortcuts in the production of a falsely advertised “Napa” wine. (The grapes were not grown in the Napa Valley.) Among other institutional shortcuts, Bronco didn’t hand-harvest but recklessly collected ripe and underripe grapes, among, well, a lot of other really weird things. Says Knox:
“Everything, and I do mean everything (including all those unripe grapes, rotten grapes, leaves, stems, birds, rodents, and insects) gets tossed into the crusher and transferred to large tanks to ferment. So think about all the animal blood and parts that have made their way into your wine next time you crack open that bottle of Two Buck Chuck! Hardly even seems worth the $2 does it?”
Despite the fact that HuffPo only republished (and then eventually pulled) the article in 2014, sales have been steadily, and then rapidly, declining. Half in despair and half deluded with hope it was just a rumor, we actually reached out to current Bronco Wine Company Vice President of Regional Distribution Pepper Salt (that’s actually her name) for verification. Ms. Salt made it clear she didn’t have much time to speak to us (apparently we’re not the only ones panicking here) but she was able to provide us with the official Bronco Wine response: “We regret to inform the public that sales of the Charles Shaw wine known affectionately as ‘Two Buck Chuck’ will be terminated no later than May 31st of 2016.”
According to the press release, “following incendiary and unfounded accusations proliferated by a certain well-known website, sales of ‘Two Buck Chuck’ have suffered considerably, with a 47% decline in purchases in under two years. Selling quality wine at such a low price point means we have razor-thing margins which we can no longer maintain in the face of declining demand. It’s all the more regrettable as we at Bronco were hoping to play a key role in providing the minor comforts of affordable wine in the wake of a nationwide recession.”
The press release was not shy in its blame, noting that Knox had called Franzia a “trash-mouthed, unapologetic downright crude and shrewd business man.” The release goes on to say, “Mr. Knox may have certain philosophical disagreements with Bronco, or challenge our business standards, but he should know never in our corporate history have we accused him or anyone within the industry of being ‘trash-mouthed.’ Nothing trash- or mouth-related at all, in fact. And that is one standard all of us here at Bronco hold very dear.”
The only good news, if there can be any silver lining to the loss of one of the most iconic (and college budget-friendly wines out there): Bronco has no plans to destroy the leftover stock of Two Buck Chuck varieties. Instead, they plan on donating it to charitable organizations “as a means of getting important polyphenols and antioxidants in countries with fewer, or unfortunately zero, wine regions as beautiful as ours.”
Before you start hoarding Two Buck Chuck (not that there’s anything wrong with that): April Fools!
Header image via flickr/Mack Male