FOOD AND DRINK
Catch Up on the Tomato Wine Phenomenon in Quebec
Tomato wine isn't what you think. Well, it is wine made from tomatoes, but it doesn't taste like tomatoes – and it's delicious
Quebec is the known for its fair share of gourmet delicacies — from comfort (poutine, maple syrup) to cultured (cheeses). A small vineyard in Baie St-Paul, about a 70-minute drive east of Quebec City, is hoping to add a beverage to the list. It’s an unusual one: tomato wine.
Omerto is the creation of Pascal Miche, who has been using a family recipe, passed down through four generations, to craft his own tomato wine. He started growing tomatoes and fermenting their juices at Domaine de la Vallée du Bras, his property in Baie St-Paul, in 2001. “He was doing it just for himself,” says Lucie Hotte, Miche’s wife, who oversees Omerto’s sales. (Miche, who doesn’t speak much English, briefly calls his wife from Europe via Skype during our chat.) He now has 6,000 tomato plants growing on his property.
The creation of tomato wine is not so different from traditional grape wine: “You have fermentation, pressing, filtration, and after you have to bottle,” Hotte explains. The harvest time is about the same — mid-August to mid-September. And it ages just as well (a bonus for souvenir hunters who are looking for something to bring home after a visit to Quebec City.)
“Our products are completely organic, so you have no sulphites, and because of the level of alcohol — about 16% — and the acidity level, you can keep if for a long time,” says Hotte. “You can keep it at least 20 years, no problem.”
It’s unlikely that a bottle will sit around that long, however. With four easily paired wines on offer, each made from multiple types of heirloom tomatoes, the temptation to drink them will likely overcome any desire to display them in a cellar.
The Sec, Omerto’s dry wine, pairs well with Asian meals, like sushi, and spicy dishes like curry. “At the first sip, you have a bit of grain alcohol notes, like sake, and as you taste, you’re going to fine more grapefruit and citrus aromas,” says Hotte, who suggests serving it as an aperitif or digestif. The Moelleux, while sweeter than the Sec, is still soft and accessible. “You have the floral and fruity aromas: orange, melon candied fruit and apricot,” says Hotte, adding that it pairs well with foie gras, terrine and seafood like scallops or lobster.
Omerto’s two other wines are aged in acacia barrels. The Barrique Acacia is Sec wine aged for nine months. “You have more woody and smoky aromas, but also notes similar to aged cognac, scotch or whisky,” says Hotte, suggesting it be paired with strong cheeses, wild mushrooms, and darker meats like duck or pheasant. And the Cherry, which is the Moelleux aged for nine months, has woody and smoky aromas but with floral notes, which make it taste like sherry. Hotte recommends this as an aperitif or digestif.
Though Domaine de la Vallée du Bras grows all of its tomatoes on just one hectare of land, it’s enough to attract visitors from across Canada, the United States and Europe who are looking to have a taste of tomato wine. Visitors to the winery can do tastings in the onsite boutique and, if time permits, Miche will tour them through the production facilities.
If you are planning a visit to taste Omerto, Hotte wants to set expectations before you arrive: “This wine doesn’t taste like tomato.” Beyond that, come with an appetite, and leave some room in your luggage for a bottle or two to take home.
328 Rang St-Antoine Nord, Baie St-Paul, 418-435-6872