When I became of legal drinking age in the mid-70s (18 then) my favorite wine was Mateus Rosé from Portugal. And, I was not alone in my love of it. At the time It was the most popular wine in the world. Even the Queen of England liked it and Jimi Hendrix was photographed drinking it out of the bottle. The bottle's shape was super cool and when empty, we dripped colorful candles onto it. It’s been a long time since I tasted it, but I remember it to be slightly effervescent, with good freshness and balance, and off-dry. It brings back many memories of my youth and the era.
Since joining the European Union in 1986, Portuguese winemaking regulations and quality guidelines now mirror those of other European countries. They have experienced three decades of progress to become a modern winemaking industry and compete in the international market with wines that have universal appeal. And, yes, they still produce Mateus.
Two fortified wines from Portugal are well-known: Madeira and Port. Portugal is also a major cork grower, producing about half the world output of commercial cork. But, its table wines have not received much attention, except by locals, until the last decade.
The wine appellations in Portugal are classified as D.O.C., Denominacao de Origem Controlada. The main regions are 1) Douro (center of Port production and elegant wines similar in style to Bordeaux); 2) Dão ( known for its big, full-bodied red wines); 3) Bairrada (highest D.O.C. wine classification); 4) Vinho Verde (bright and zesty wines from the coolest, northernmost wine region); 5) Terras do Sado (a peninsula area bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and two rivers: Tejo and Sado) and, 6) Alentejo (one of the warmest regions that covers one-third of the landmass).
Much of the wine is produced with indigenous grape varietals, and vinified as blends. For whites you find Loureiro, Arinto, Malvasia Fina and Alvarinho (known as Alvariňo in Spain). For reds it is Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz ( Tempranillo in Spain), Baga, Castelao and Trincadeira.