Anyone who’s ever sampled Thunderbird is unlikely to forget the experience—or, for that matter, to recall it with much fondness. The stuff is the very epitome of bum wine, heavy on the alcohol and the commensurate taste of metallic burning. This detailed review breaks it down for the broke oenophiles in the audience:
For all the legend and hype surrounding this booze and its Clorox-like qualities, Thunderbird wasn’t nearly as harsh as I was expecting. It retained a flavor of poorly fermented grapes and, aside from the burning and industrial-strength smell, actually tasted like a really, really, really awful white wine. It was intensely sugary and presented an aftertaste that fell somewhere between ginger ale and cough syrup.
And yet when Thunderbird first hit the market, Ernest and Julio Gallo thought they had a classy drink on their hands—classy enough to hire British actor James Mason as their spokesperson. We’re rather curious how the Gallos eventually figured out that Thunderbird was not welcome in Eisenhower-era suburban liquor cabinets, and that they were better off reinventing the brand as the alcoholic equivalent of private-label mac-‘n-cheese.