Thunderbird - A fine wine for fine Americans!

Nothing says Memorial Day like the real American Classic, Thunderbird!  Sadly, we've reached a point where only the finest stores carry Thunderbird, so when I came across a bottle recently, I knew that I had to pick it up!  While I've dabbled in bum wines over the years (MD 20/20 red grape is a personal favorite), I'd never been able to sample this gem.  Like all fine bum wines, Thunderbird advises that you should serve cold.  When drinking cheap wine, that is pretty much a universal truth.  With a long weekend upon me, I decided to wade into this piece of Americana.  After pulling the bottle out of the freezer, I first admired the label.  17.5% by volume.  That's a fine wine!  The red and gold looks regal, befitting a wine that is so good, Billy Joe Shaver had to write a song about it.  What's the word?  Thunderbird!

When you twist off the top, the first bit of nose is reminiscent of rubbing alcohol, but not in a bad way.  I poured a bit into my cup (for tasting purposes only - bottle drinking comes later) and it's very lightly colored, like a flat glass of light beer.  The label says that this is a citrus wine with natural flavors, so I wasn't sure what exactly to expect.  I broke out my handy wine tasting chart and dove right in.  The nose is light, with hints of citrus and getting a shot at the doctor's office.  The first taste is more subtle than I expected.  When you're used to Mad Dog, it was nice to not be knocked on my ass when it hit my tongue.  You definitely taste the citrus, but that rubbing alcohol is still lurking there.  It hits your tongue and goes down easy.  Maybe too easy.  This isn't bad!  Cold flavor wine is good.

Subsequent drinks just taste easier and easier.  Wait a minute, I remember this from Mad Dog.  The middle part of the bottle always tastes better than the first!  After I finished my tasting glass, I was starting to feel a little better about life.  I pulled the bottle out of the freezer and unscrewed the top.  A nice, long pull off of the bottle tasted like just what the doctor ordered.  This is how to drink bum wine!  When you pull straight off of the bottle, you don't have to worry about the smell hitting your nose, just the delicious cold refreshment pouring out.  It chills me inside and I can already feel things slipping out of my mind.  I turned up the David Allan Coe and thought about mama and prison and how he probably had a bottle or two of Thunderbird in his day.  

I can feel a vague pain in my temples, but I'm assuming that it's unrelated.  Thunderbird wouldn't do that to me, would it?  It's my friend!.  I'm rolling now.  The gulps go down easy and my singing along is getting better.  And louder.  A neighbor peaks out to see what the hell is going on back there.  Seeing me tip the bottle back is all they need to know.  By now, my head is definitely feeling it, but I don't care.  I know what the word is.  Thunderbird!!  Billy Joe was right.  This is a fine wine.  A fine wine for fine Americans!  Into the second half of the bottle, I decide that I need to start a campaign to get bum wines out there to the poor wretches who are stuck drinking crappy beer and Vladimir vodka.  As the bottle warms up, the rubbing alcohol smells starts to get it me.  It reminds me of the smell of chlorine at the pool when I was a kid.  I can really taste the sweetness that only partly covers up the flavor.  The last third is challenging me, but I knew this was coming.  I put back a mighty swallow, killing as much as I can of it and hoping that it doesn't come back up on me.  I keep it down, but my head is swimming now.  Yep, this stuff does the trick.

I take the last little taste and savor it for a moment.  It's not that bad.  God knows I've had worse.  The bums of the world were right when they said this was the word.  It may not be the best selling wine in America anymore, but it will be at the top of the charts in our hearts forever.  Thunderbird, an American Classic!

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  1. "Gimme "The Bird That Flies Upside-Down"" is what my favorite customer used to say to me when I worked in a liquor store. "Boogie", a Vietnam Vet, was a gentle, haunted soul.