Thursday 28 May 2015

And if one green bottle… : Mateus Rosé

Of course I went to the London Wine Fair. How else am I going to taste wine I cannot afford? The unaffordable 2012 Grands Crus de Bordeaux, for example (tasting note: meh…). The glorious but equally unaffordable Lupicaia; and the superb, good value but still unaffordable Tassinaia. Why is it that the only people who have the means for rich, powerful and significant wines are those with similar traits?

But by now, most of you will understand how things work within Sediment’s purview. So you will not be surprised to find me writing about a wine at the other end of the Fair/market. I was drawn to the stand featuring Mateus Rose, starter wine for so many of us, rich with nostalgia if nothing else – to be shocked by the news, announced on collar bands,  that Mateus is abandoning its classic green bottle for a clear one.

Why oh why?, I asked in true Daily Mail fashion. And the answer from the rep on the stand was disturbing. There’s a generation out there who don’t know that Mateus is rosé.

Oh, come on. This is hard to comprehend. Surely the two terms are synonymous, like Trebor mints or Typhoo tea. The Portuguese themselves are emphatic: “MATEUS, o ROSÉ mais famoso do mundo!”, they declare, with little fear of contradiction. 

But no, it seems that Mateus need to “show off our wonderful rosé colour”, because young people nowadays (as I believe they are described) aren’t aware that inside the famous green Mateus bottle is a rosé wine.

I am not embarrassed to say that Mateus Rosé was one of the first wines I drank. And here is the reason why I am not embarrassed:

This compensates for the fact that Mateus was revealed to be the favourite wine of Saddam Hussein after his death.

In the 1970s, we teenagers not only had to make our own fun, we had to make our own alcopops. For girls, this meant a teeth-coating vodka and lime. For boys, Southern Comfort. And for a classy evening on the sofa, swap the Players No 6 for a packet of Dunhill, turn on Bouquet of Barbed Wire and break out the “Mattius”.

Mateus Rosé is still the bland, slightly fizzy, slightly sugary concoction I dimly remember from my youth, and from which I moved on rapidly to the relative sophistication of Sainsbury’s Corbieres. But in yet another misguided attempt to update a brand, Mateus has been through a succession of changes since Jimi and I were drinking it.

The shape of the bottle has been subtly modified from its original design (based on a WWI soldier’s flask). The label has been altered in size and appearance. Mateus even has to call itself “the original” (distinguishing itself from its host of imitators).

What it has abandoned in the process is something which most brands today are desperate to flaunt, even to artificially create, but which Mateus has cheerfully thrown away – authenticity.

Its marketing has instead an air of desperation. Mateus, they say, is “ideally suited to accompany all life’s moments”. What, all  of them? Surely not, for example, the best accompaniment to your driving test?

Something tells me that actually, this “generation” discovering wine today probably know more about the drink than we ever did in our youth. And no matter how literacy standards may have slipped, the word “rosé” would surely enlighten just as many of them as abandoning an iconic bottle in order to display the colour of its contents.

It does seem odd that, when so many brands are returning to original designs in order to stress their heritage, here is one going in the opposite direction. Mateus will now look like something intended to be poured into your bath.

(Which, some might say,…)

Pah. The original bottle will always have a place in some people’s memories. To say nothing of some people’s homes.



  1. Comment from the CleverClogs Dept. "Revealed to be the favourite wine of Saddam Hussein after his death." Interesting, but what did he drink before then?

  2. Great posts and poerspective on the History of Mateus and why it now comes in a transparent bottle.
    But what does it actually taste like? I thought about that yesterday, and I wanted to document a proper wine tasting, a 'formal' wine review of Mateus, for History.
    So I wrote a blog post on Social Vignerons What is Mateus Portuguese Rosé Wine Worth?
    Overall, I think it's a good simple refreshing rose, well made. But I regretted what seems to me to be too much sulfur dioxide.
    Anway, cheers to a fun post, and thanks for sharing :-)

  3. I drank Mateus in the 60's and just renewed drinking it recently and I still love it along with Lancer's also from Portugal. Great refreshing summer wine along with a blunt.

  4. Back in the Era...having a wine that meshed with the head was all that mattered. Mateus original did that, if they sold out F them.


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