I was shocked recently to hear a wine being disrespected. Wine ethics is a hobby of mine, along with wine osmosis at a personal level.
“Show some respect,’ I said to the culprit.
“That’s a bit harsh,” said another friend. “Wouldn’t you raise your eyebrows if at the end of a dinner with a group of wine enthusiasts, among the empty bottles of Torbreck and Tyrrell’s, you saw an unopened bottle of Mateus Rosé?”
“No,” I said, “I wouldn’t.”
I explained to her that another of my hobbies was noting the way we scorned the open-minded innocence of our youth, and people who brought wine in novelty bottles.
I took the Mateus home with me, partly because I’d paid for it, and partly because I knew they’d just give it to their dog, who’s good at corks but hopeless with screw caps.
A few days later I decided to give my friends another chance. A smaller dinner this time, just the four of us. No dogs.
“Let’s pay homage,” I said, opening the Mateus, “to the wine that launched us on our lifetime voyage of drinking pleasure.”
The others looked at me, appalled.
“The first night I drank it,” said one, “I vomited.”
“I lost my virginity,” said another.
“I did both,” said the third, “at the same time.”
They opened a bottle of Granite Belt viognier. I tasted the Mateus, with reverence and a teeny bit of trepidation, mostly because these days it comes in a clear glass bottle shaped like a table tennis bat.
Would it still be as exotic and full of mystery and promise as when it first touched my lips? Even without its stunted green bottle, hand-blown I seem to remember by 13th century monks, and its medieval label that always amazed me because I didn’t think printing had been invented back then.
I needn’t have worried. It was balanced and fresh and zinging with energy from its blend of more exotic grape varieties than I can even pronounce, particularly with my mouth full of rosé.
But it also had unexpected complexity. The bouquet suggesting patchouli and incense, with smoky notes of burning draft cards and Kombi exhaust. On the palate, intriguing undertones of prawn cocktail, strawberry lipstick and lolly gobble bliss bomb. Oh, it took me back.
Later in the evening, another friend dropped in. The one whose eyebrows had been raised a few evenings earlier. We both apologised and finished the bottle together.
“Interesting,” he said, his nose in the glass. “I’m getting mouse droppings in the pocket of a school blazer and that smell you get when you burn your legs on a vinyl car seat.”
I smiled. We both agreed Mateus will always be a timeless wine. Except for its Aussie marketing. Particularly the name, with its troubling assertion that if two of us drink it, we’ll mate.
Hmmm, we mused. Wonder what they call it in Portugal?