About a month ago, I was driving around rural Quebec and saw a sign for tomato wine. Man, I thought, French Canadians sure are quirky. Street performers everywhere, foie gras all the time, the patchiest facial hair on men in the world, tomato wine. I wanted to try some, but the winery was an hour out of my way, and I was determined to visit this emu farm. Plus it was early, and I couldn’t start my long day of driving with a tomato-y buzz. I thought about hitting the winery later that night, but I needed to stay awake on the two-hour drive back to Quebec City, and there was this church that looked interesting, and you know how driving around aimlessly goes. And there’s no way tomato wine perks up a tired driver who’s full of meats of cheeses. Excuses, excuses, I know. I blew it.
Omerto is located in Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec, which is also the birthplace of Cirque du Soleil. While Omerto has been written up here and there, it would be a stretch to say it's well known outside of Charlevoix, a rural area northeast of Quebec City. Tomato wine is said to have a "slight fruity note, a spicy side that is slightly distinct like cake spices. You can feel the alcohol but the sweetness masks the taste of it. It has hints of honey [sweetness] that could go well with spicy dishes and desserts." But it doesn’t really taste like tomato. Huh. I needed to know more, so I emailed some questions to Omerto president Pascal Miche. He graciously sent back some answers, which I’ve edited for length and clarity.
Extra Crispy: Were you the first person to ever make tomato wine?
Pascal Miche: Yes, we are the first company to commercialize tomato wine in the world. We have won the second price for Omerto Moelleux and Omerto Dry at the Finger Lakes International contest at New York in 2015. And we won also a silver medal for Omerto Moelleux and bronze medal for Omerto Dry at the China Wine and Spirits Awards in 2014.
Can you describe your entire process, from farming to fermentation? Is it kept in barrels?
No. You have to understand that we can not reveal it, because it’s a secret. But it's the same process as regular winemaking, so you will have fermentation with yeast. And after we press the product, there is filtration and bottling.
We have two basics products, Omerto Dry and Moelleux. Those two are made in big tanks. And we have two other products, Omerto Acacia and Chestnut/Cherry, which are made in a cask. To make the Omerto Acacia, we took the Dry Omerto and put it in the Acacia cask for two years. For the Omerto Chestnut/Cherry, we took the Omerot Moelleux and put it in a chestnut and cherry cask (two types of wood in the same barrel) for two years. So we have four unique products.
How is a tomato wine buzz different than a buzz you’d get from red wine?
Our products are at 16 percent alcohol by volume, so they are bit similar to white porto or the Pineau des Charentes, but they have less sugar, so they are less sweet.
What do you think is the future of tomato wine? Do you think other companies around the world will start making it too?
Probably, eventually, there will be other people who will produce tomato wine. But we will still be the first one to have produced tomato wine. We are presently starting to sell our products in Europe, and we are looking for a broker and a distributor in the US. So if you know someone who could be interested in representing our products, please let us know!
I feel like the food in Charlevoix is so distinctive. How does tomato wine fit into the region’s culinary tradition?
Yes, Charlevoix is very distinctive because of its nature and mountains, and the crater that was made by a meteorite impact a very long time ago. And Charlevoix has a history of agritourism that is very well known in the province of Quebec. It has been renowned for 20 years now.
Is there anything else you’d like to make into wine, other than tomatoes, that no one ever has before?
For now, we're concentrating on tomato wine. We don't want to start making any other wine. But in the future, you never know!