Some call it "bum wine" or "brown bag vino". But the cultured call it "fortified wine", that ultra-sweet, high-octane "grape wine with citrus spirits" that gets a, um, bum rap because it's high on alcohol and low on price (though, averaging $5 a bottle, MD 20/20 is out-pricing the Three Buck Chuck). In the interest of fairness, we scored five of the more popular fortified wines and ranked them like any other wine. Then we maaaaaaaaybe peed on a bus stop... but only to stop the government from reading our thoughts.
What it is: A mixture of grape and citrus and strawberry that's marked by a distinct thickness. It's also a wolf in sheep's clothing: Because of its effete bottle and technicolor glow, people often mistake it for a wine cooler… a wine cooler that'd dump the average consumer of wine coolers on her minivan-driving rump. ABV: 18% Taste-test: If I didn't know waaaay better, I'd think I brushed my teeth before tasting this… it tastes like something I fermented in my bathroom (believe me, I know). It has the consistency of watered-down cough syrup and sugar, but none of the flavor of traditional sizurp.
What it is: "The American Classic", Commie! Also, "Citrus wine with natural flavors and caramel color… vinted and bottled in Modesto". Commie. ABV: 17.5% Taste-test: Apparently, "American Classic" means a weird, syrupy flavor that's at once bitter and sweet. So… Sarah Palin? But seriously, folks… it tastes a bit like corn syrup mixed with bottom shelf vodka that was left out in the sun.
3. MD 20/20 Blue Raspberry
What it is: Known typically as Mad Dog, but really an abbreviation of Mogen David (no relation to Larry) the 20/20 used to mean "20oz/20% alcohol" but not any more… everything we thought about this is a lie. Including the idea that the "Bling Bling" necklace on the label means it's baller. ABV: 13% Taste-test: It looks like wiper fluid and kinda tastes that way too. It's like somebody dissolved a Jolly Rancher and a blue Halls in some rubbing alcohol, then mixed it with flat soda.
2. Night Train Express
What it is: Without it, we would never have the GNR classic that it inspired. We probably also wouldn't have Chinese Democracy, so it's kind of a wash. It was also part of a crackdown on the industry that claimed it specifically contributed to vagrancy and public intoxication. ABV: 17.5% Taste-test: It's like the combination of Boone's Farm and Thunderbird, with a heavy, syrupy consistency that's somewhere between NyQuil and Karo syrup, with a little rubbing alcohol dumped in for good measure. In fact, the whole NyQuil thing is pretty apt… I couldn't put it down for some reason, and now I need a nap.
What it is: Apparently named after a fact-based 1947 movie about Irish singer Chauncey Olcott (bam! Internet!), WIR has been warming bellies for more than five decades. We'll call that a fine vintage. ABV: 17% Taste-test: The wine-iest of the lot, it basically tastes like Merlot with a terrible aftertaste, much like kissing Kathie Lee. It definitely has that "loaded with grapes" flavor, but also leaves tastes like regret and dark secrets. So yeah, Kathie Lee.
Andy Kryza is Thrillist's national eat/drink senior editor, and has proudly lived vegetable-free since 2001. Follow his adventures/slow decline via Twitter at @apkryza.