Pros: Dry, not bad tasting, food-friendly acid, cheap.
Cons: Underextracted and a little alcoholic.
For a long time I had no idea what Mateus was, other than the wine in the funny-shaped bottle shelved near the Lancers. The bottle is shaped somewhat like a mandolin or a flattened Chianti fiasco; this had me, for reasons I can't articulate, suspecting that it was some sort of dessert wine. If I'd have looked more closely and actually read the label, I'd have found that it's a table wine, but I had no inclination to look more closely until I was reading up on old mass-market imports like Lancers and Riunite Lambrusco.
Mateus is a Portuguese wine, introduced in the early 1940s, that shared Lancers's and Riunite Lambrusco's heyday and has retained a niche following and a grocery-store shelf spot since. It is, in fact, quite similar to the Lancers, with the same zippy acidity, cherry notes, and vaguely vinous aroma, despite being made from a different blend of grapes, in this case Baga, Bastardo, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Pinheira.
Like the Lancers, it's under-extracted for a rosé, but I'd actually call it better. For one, it lacks the palate-deadening sugar. It also has a strong citrus-peel signature, very much like white vinho verde. If you were to blindfold me and give me this, I'd actually take it to be a force-carbonated and perhaps rosé vinho verde.
At four to five dollars per bottle, however, it's quite a bit cheaper than Gazela or Aveleda. At this price, there are definitely flaws in the wine, as expected. "Generic vinous aroma" is another way of saying "alcoholic"; even at a quaffable and food-friendly 11% ABV, Mateus has too much alcohol for such a light-bodied and lightly flavored wine. When ice-cold or open for a few days, this fades to a sort of steeliness, but the grapefruit peel and cherry flavors are also deadened.
That's the sort of tradeoff we don't want to have in a wine. Nevertheless, Mateus is likely the best dry rosé or vinho verde four dollars can buy, and is better than most of the German or French sparklers available at such a low price. It's worth trying, and I'd buy it again for a picnic or party.