Oz Clarke, in his wonderfully entertaining The History of Wine in 100 Bottles, tells the heartbreaking story behind the history of Mateus Rosé, which is a medium-sweet, slightly-fizzy pink wine, similar to White Zinfandel, and especially popular with certain young women and elderly aunts.
It was created in 1942 during a dark period of World War II as a way of marketing Portugal’s embarrassing surplus of wine. In addition to its unusual bottle shape, and perhaps to distract from the quality of the wine, its makers decided to create an attractive label featuring a picture of Palácio de Mateus, an elegant 18th century Portuguese chateau with baroque architectural features.
They approached the owners of the chateau and explained that they wanted to feature the building on the label of every bottle sold and wanted to call the wine Mateus Rosé. In return, they offered the owners the choice between a one-time, lump-sum payment of a few thousand dollars - or a royalty of fifty cents for every bottle sold.
In return for the use of the name and image of the château in perpetuity, the owners chose to receive the lump-sum payment in cash. A few thousand dollars seemed like a pretty good deal in 1942.
Over the past seventy-five years since the deal was struck, sales of Mateus Rosé have averaged more than three-million cases per year and account for over forty percent of Portuguese wine sales. Even at fifty cents per bottle, royalties to date would have exceeded a billion dollars.