MD 20/20 bottles

Flavored fortified wines or tonic wines (known informally as bum wines or bum vino) are inexpensive fortified wines that typically have an alcohol content between 13% and 20% alcohol by volume (ABV). They are made from various fruits (including grapes and citrus fruits) with added sugar, artificial flavor, and artificial color.



An early reference to the problem of cheap and poorly made wines is in the "Report on Cheap Wines" in the 5 November 1864 issue of The Medical Times and Gazette. The author, in prescribing inexpensive wines for several ills, cautions against the "fortified" wines of the day, describing one sample that he had tried:

When the cork was drawn it was scarcely tinted, and was a very bad one—a thing of no good augury for the wine. There was no smell of port wine. The liquid, when tasted, gave the palate half-a-dozen sensations instead of one. There was a hot taste of spirits, a sweet taste, a fruity taste like damsons, and an unmistakable flavor of Roussillon [an alternative name in France for wine made from the grape Grenache]. It was a strong, unwholesome liquor, purchased very dearly.[14]

It is reported, however, that the popularity of cheap, fortified wines in the United States arose in the 1930s as a product of Prohibition and the Great Depression:

Prohibition produced the Roaring Twenties and fostered more beer and distilled-spirit drinkers than wine drinkers, because the raw materials were easier to come by. But fortified wine, or medicinal wine tonic—containing about 20 percent alcohol, which made it more like a distilled spirit than regular wine—was still available and became America's number one wine. Thunderbird and Wild Irish Rose, to name two examples, are fortified wines. American wine was soon more popular for its effect than its taste; in fact, the word wino came into use during the Depression to describe those unfortunate souls who turned to fortified wine to forget their troubles.

— Kevin Zraly, Kevin Zraly's American Wine Guide (2006), p. 38.

Concerns and media attention

While overtaken somewhat in the low-end alcoholic drink market by sweetened malt beverages by the 1990s, the appeal of cheap fortified wines to the poor and homeless has often raised concerns:

Community groups in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland have urged makers of fortified wines such as Wild Irish Rose and E & J Gallo's Thunderbird and Night Train brands to pull their products from the shelves of liquor retailers in skid row areas. In Nashville, Tennessee, one liquor store owner told Nashville Business Journal reporter Julie Hinds that police warned him to stop selling his biggest selling product, Wild Irish Rose, because it encouraged homeless people to linger in the area.

— Janice Jorgensen, Encyclopedia of Consumer Brands: Consumable Products (1993), p. 492.

In 2005, the Seattle City Council asked the Washington State Liquor Control Board to prohibit the sale of certain alcohol products in an impoverished "Alcohol Impact Area". Among the products sought to be banned were over two dozen beers and six wines: Cisco, Gino's Premium Blend, MD 20/20, Night Train, Thunderbird, and Wild Irish Rose.[15] The Liquor Control Board approved these restrictions on 30 August 2006.[16] Two other cities in Washington, Tacoma and Spokane, also followed suit in instituting "Alcohol Impact Areas", after Seattle's example.[17][18]

See also


  1. ^ Zemtsov, Ilya. Encyclopedia of Soviet life. Transaction Publishers. p. 323. ISBN 9781412822565. Retrieved 2009-04-04.
  2. ^ Heald, Claire (26 September 2006). "BBC News Magazine – Binge drinking – the Benedictine connection". Retrieved 17 June 2010.
  3. ^ "Divas Beverages | Divas Beverages". November 14, 2015. Archived from the original on 2015-11-14.
  4. ^ staff (January 23, 2018). "Viral picture shows shocking fact you (probably) didn't know about MD 20/20". Retrieved 17 December 2019.
  5. ^ Jargin, Sergei V. (September–October 2015). "Vodka vs. Fortified Wine in Russia: Retrospective View". Alcohol and Alcoholism. 50 (5): 624–625. doi:10.1093/alcalc/agv034. PMC 3307043. PMID 22330211.
  6. ^ Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office. September 10, 1963. p. TM 88.
  7. ^ "Canandaigua Wine Co. Agrees To Advertising, Packaging Changes". FTC. Archived from the original on October 18, 2007.
  8. ^ Gordon, Will. "Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Richards Wild Irish Rose". Retrieved 17 December 2019.
  9. ^ "E & J Gallo Winery". The Wine Lover's Companion. Epicurious. Archived from the original on 2007-06-10.
  10. ^ Rich, Frank Kelly. "Dead End Drinks | Modern Drunkard Magazine".
  11. ^ a b c d Dent, Bryan. "What's the Word? Thunderbird! The strange and unnatural history of America's favorite wine". Modern Drunkard Magazine. Retrieved 16 December 2019.
  12. ^ "AEP". Archived from the original on June 18, 2010. Retrieved 28 January 2010.
  13. ^ Bunny and Coco Get Smashed. Bunny Ultramod. ISBN 9781458024664 – via Google Books.
  14. ^ "Report on Cheap Wines". The Medical Times and Gazette. London, J. & A. Churchill: 547. 5 November 1864.
  15. ^ Hector Castro (7 December 2005). "City could soon widen alcohol impact areas". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. [dead link]
  16. ^ Alcohol Impact Area Information and Updates Archived 2013-10-12 at the Wayback Machine, City of Seattle website.
  17. ^ "Tacoma Alcohol Impact Area Press Release". Archived from the original on 2012-03-20.
  18. ^ "Spokane Alcohol Impact Area Press Release" (Press release). Archived from the original on 2012-03-20.