That squat flask shaped bottle sitting in the liquor cabinet of my parent’s home always fascinated me as a child growing up in the 1970’s. I did not know the contents nor was I allowed to taste them. All I knew was the name Mateus Rosé and I also knew that it was some kind of a rage way back then.
By the time I became aware of the iconic nature of this wine brand; it had gone out of fashion and lost some of its sparkle after having enjoyed great commercial success ever since it was launched by a Portuguese wine company Sogrape Vinhos, in the midst of World War II. The first truly global Portuguese wine brand, it was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth II & British pop singer Sir Cliff Richard. It featured in the lyrics of Elton John’s 1973 song “Social Disease” and rock legend Jimi Hendrix was seen swigging from the trademark bottle in a photograph. It was also found stockpiled in the cellars of Saddam Hussein’s palaces.
My chance to become re-acquainted with this brand came sometime back when I was invited by Aspri Spirits, one of India’s leading distributors of premium wines, spirits & beer and the sole importers of Mateus in India. The invitation was for a Wine Masterclass conducted by Jakub Wierzba, Marketing Manager Asia Pacific Sogrape Vinhos, the largest family owned wine company in Portugal. Founded in 1942 by Fernando Van Zeller Guedes, the company concentrated for the first 40 years only on one brand, the Mateus Rose, building its fortunes around it. In the early 1970’s it was the most popular wine in the world with 4 million cases a year sold in United States alone making it a brand of all brands. However over time its popularity declined and it is now looking to regain some of its lost shine.
Sogrape Vihos is presently led by the 3rd generation of the Guedes family and has a presence not only in key wine growing regions of Portugal but also owns vineyards in Spain (Lan), Argentina (Finca Flichman), Chile (Chateau Los Bold) & New Zealand (Framingham) making it a major player in the global wine market. It is a producer of renowned Port Wine brands Sandeman, Offley & Ferreira and other strong brands such as Gazela & Casa Ferreirinha.
Talking about their star brand which in its new avatar is called “The Original Mateus” Jakub Wierzba said that it comes in a slightly drier style (reduction of residual sugar from 20g/L to 15g/L) keeping in mind the current taste trends. An astounding ten grape varietals go into the making of Mateus and some of them are Baga, Rufete, Tinta Barocca & Touriga Franca. The wine still accounts for around 13% of Portugal’s bottled wine exports.
On tasting it I found it to be lightly fizzy, floral, fruity (raspberry & strawberry notes) and very fresh with a good balance between fruit and acidity. In Jakub’s words “This is a wine suited to the tastes of younger generation particularly women.
Sogrape Vinhos has also introduced a Sparkling Brut Rose (a blend of Baga and Shiraz with residual sugar of 12g/L) which is positioned as a fun wine for non-serious wine drinkers. Crisp and fresh this is a modern style wine and ideal to enjoy on a picnic or any celebration.
So is the new generation of wine drinkers ready to discover the nostalgia of the 70’s and enjoy this frizzante style rose wine without any pretensions towards wine snobbery. I think so.
By: Lavina Kharkwal
Mateus Rose (Rs 1950) is available in most modern retail wine stores in Delhi while Sparkling Mateus Brut Rosé (Rs 2500) is currently available in Saket market.