"Recognized for its micro climate since pre Colombian times and then colonized by the Conquistadores, the Erasmo estate is now bringing to the world award winning wines that show all the potential of the oldest, most traditional wine region of Chile."
-Count Francesco Marone Cinzano
Renowned for crafting exquisite Brunello di Montalcino at his Col d'Orcia estate in Tuscany, Count Francesco Marone Cinzano crossed an ocean and a continent to embark on an innovative winemaking adventure in Chile. Founded in 1995, the Count's Erasmo is an organic winery and vineyard in Reserva de Caliboro, which is located in Chile's Maule Valley, about 155 miles south of Santiago in the Central Valley region. Named in tribute to a local farmer that helped Cinzano plant the vineyard and understand the uniqueness of the land, Erasmo also means pleasant in ancient Greek.
“Erasmo unites the finest Andean mother earth with the centuries-old winemaking heritage of my Italian forebears.”
Count Francesco Marone Cinzano
Maule Valley is Chile's oldest and most traditional winemaking region and a good half of the country's wines include its grapes. Erasmo's vineyards are planted in the area of Reserva de Caliboro, a pre-Columbian human settlement that has been inhabited by Andean civilizations since ancient times. No irrigation is allowed in Caliboro and all vineyards are dry-farmed. Erasmo balances Cinzano's love of both tradition and state-of-the-art winemaking techniques. He planted Erasmo's vineyards with the highest quality French grape clones with the intent of showing that traditional Bordeaux varieties would thrive in this ancient yet New World terroir.
I had the pleasure of sipping a few Erasmo wines over a lovely lunch with Cinzano at Ai Fiori in New York City. I firmly believe that a wine often reflects the personality of the producer, and Cinzano and his Erasmo are clearly kindred spirits: elegant, daring, vivacious, and bold. I suspect that consulting enologist Maurizio Castelli may possess similar traits.
Erasmo Barbera Garnacha 2014 ($16.99)
(32% Barbera, 48% Garnacha, 12% Carignan, 8% Alicante)
With a twinkle in his eye, Cinzano proclaimed that "not even an Australian producer has gone so wild as to blend Garnacha and Barbera!" His wild idea has paid off beautifully - this sui generis blend is fresh and fruity with juicy flavors of cherry, blackberry, and cranberry with a subtle sweetness and herbaceous hint on the finish. Made in the old way with natural yeasts and by fermenting the grapes together ("promiscuous fermentation" is how the Count cleverly describes it), the blend is a tasty hybrid of tradition and modernity. An approachable wine but very far from ordinary, it is versatile enough to serve as an apéritif or with roast chicken or fish. It is suggested that you serve this wine slightly chilled. Erasmo is the only producer of Barbera grapes in Chile.
Erasmo Reserva de Caliboro 2010 & 2009 ($29.99 each)
(60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 25% Merlot, 5% Syrah)
In 2010, a violent earthquake hit the central coast of Chile which delayed the harvest at Erasmo and resulted in riper grapes. This ripeness can be detected in the 2010 and the wine is quite juicy and round with rich tannins and a hint of minerality on the finish. The 2010 is also a real testament of triumph in trying times: the Erasmo team had to work in isolated and complicated conditions after the earthquake to produce this vintage.
I found the 2009 vintage of Erasmo Reserva de Caliboro quite exceptional, with darker and rounder berry flavors and harmoniously integrated hints of spice and velvety tannins. Both vintages pair well with beef, lamb, and wild boar.
Erasmo Late Harvest Torontel 2010 ($43.99)
I often prefer to end a meal with a glass of sweet wine instead of a sugary dessert. The best sweet wines balance sugar with savory flavors and acidity. Erasmo Late Harvest Torontel is produced from a 60-year-old-vineyard and has lovely flavors of apricot, golden raisins, and hazelnuts. It also has a lively acidity that prevents it from being cloying. Cinzano describes this elegant wine as "nectar of the gods." Pair with a sharp aged cheese for a match made in heaven.