Anyone who has searched the couch cushions for a handful of change knows that boozing on an extreme budget can be a risky proposition. To help you decide how to spend that meager pile of pennies, we've scraped the Bottom of the Barrel to review some of the cheapest, most face-planting, getcha drunk wines on the market. This week: Thunderbird.
The Vintage: Thunderbird, ABV 18%
Thunderbird is truly the very Bottom of the Barrel, even in terms of low-end fortified wine. It makes Boone's Farm look like bubble gum pop and that firewater Wild Irish Rose seem like watered-down table wine. Along with its sister-in-crime, Night Train Express, Thunderbird was first manufactured by E & J Gallo in the wake of prohibition to cater to an underserved "urban" demographic. A catchy little radio jingle was even crafted to honor this tough old bird:
What's the word? Thunderbird!
How's it sold? Good and Cold.
What's the jive? Bird's alive!
What's the price? Thirty twice.
Written in an age when jive was still relevant and sixty cents could buy you a tankard of rot gut, the jingle is the best thing about this "American Classic." T-bird also has the distinction of being the only ghetto wine that will turn your tongue blacker than a giraffe's with regular consumption. Chances are if you're consuming this on a regular basis, you probably have a helluva lot more problems than the color of your tongue.
(See, swirl, sniff, sip, and savor this bounty after the jump)
Appearance: Thunderbird is a clear, pale yellow wine that appears fairly innocuous at first glance. It doesn't rely on cheap gimmicks like adding electric-colored dyes to sell because nobody accidentally stumbles upon T-Bird. A series of unfortunate events always precedes this downward spiral into ghetto wine vagrancy. There is no sinking lower than Thunderbird.
Bouquet: Similar to other low-end fortified wines, Thunderbird has the nostril singing bouquet of rubbing alcohol and paint thinner. Huffing Thunderbird may very well be as effective as drinking it. Also, if you close your eyes and concentrate really hard, wafts of shattered dreams and desolation can be detected.
Body: Let's face it, Thunderbird may as well be horse piss fortified and bottled for your convenience. T-Bird is not a fruit forward varietal with a floral bouquet that dances on your palate. It prefers to slap you across the face with its pungent eau du cheval and deride you for making the poor decision to consume this vintage. The label reads "Serve Very Cold" for a reason, and that's because nobody likes drinking warm horse piss.
Finish: You would think that the best part of drinking this swill is getting it over with, but this tough-as-nails jail bird doesn't go down without a fight. Thunderbird burns all the way down. The burn lets you know that it's working and portends the grueling punishment that your liver will soon be facing.
Pairs with: Considering the fact that T-bird will singe off half your taste buds and host a raucous party in your gut, it best not to add anything else to this already volatile situation. It therefore pairs best with the paper bag it was served to you in. That way you can try and hide the shame of consuming this rot gut and preserve what little is left of your (rapidly) diminishing dignity.
Lasting impressions: Thunderbird is not for the casual drinker. It is a bad life choice and it should be avoided at all costs.