Wine lovers in Canada have been indulging in an unusual vintage courtesy of a 1930s Belgian recipe made using tomatoes.
Just three years after launching the product, a former pork butcher from Charlevoix is recording annual sales in excess of 34,000 bottles.
Pascal Miche, who uses similar methods to traditional winemakers in that he meticulously selects the finest tomatoes prior to crushing, soaking, fermenting and pressing them, honed a family technique started in the 1930s. Having emigrated from Belgium to Quebec seven years ago he set about cultivating the old recipe, which had been kept secret for four generations, in order to create a successful commercial product.
He makes the wine from 6,200 red, yellow and black tomatoes on his ‘vineyard’ which is 400km northeast of Montreal and his third crop is due to ripen later on this month. The transformation takes nine months from field to bottle and the resulting product is a clear white wine that leaves no trace of tomato both in taste and appearance.
A description of the wine on the Omerto
website reads: “Omerto is made from a special blend of heirloom tomatoes, rich in flavor and especially adapted to the Baie St. Paul region, which gives this aperitif tomato wine its unique taste.”
The wine has a lofty 18% alcohol content and is called Omerto Sec after the recipe’s founder, his great-grandfather Omer. Miche also produces Omerto Moelleux which is a sweeter wine that has drawn favourable comparisons to French aperitif, Pineau des Charentes.
Selling at around CA$25 per 200ml bottle, Miche’s creation is currently only available in select shops and restaurants in Quebec and Manitoba but he has every intention of distributing the wine abroad. If he does so in France, he will have to rename the product from ‘wine’ because only alcoholic beverages made from fermented grape juice may use the appellation.