Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The Tomato and Wine

If you have ever had a bumper crop of tomatoes you may be wondering what on earth to do with them. I usually end up making tomato purée and either freeze or bottle it for use in Winter casseroles and dishes. Of course, there is nothing quite as good as plump sun ripened tomatoes fresh off the vine and I use them in a variety of salads and side dishes during the late Summer and early Autumn.

Tomatoes can be difficult to match with wine as the acidity is high, the texture juicy and the flavour naturally sweet – Susy Atkins writing in the Telegraph reckons that tomatoes pair well with crisp white wines, especially Sauvignon Blanc. We've found this to be true however a chilled dry Rosé can be really good too - Fleur de Luze and Chateau Ballan Larquette Rosé are my favourite choices with tomato based salads at home.

I read a while ago that in the past Guernsey tomato growers (Guernsey was famous for its tomatoes for most of the 20th century) came up with many different uses for the fruit . . . one of which was making wine. Several attempts were made at turning the tomato wine into a commercial venture, though they all seemed to fail – probably as the taste was none too good. Now it seems that a Quebec based farmer has cracked the secret to making a successful tomato wine in Canada. The tomato wine was made to a jealously guarded family recipe from Belgium and handed down over 4 generations. The wine is called Omerto, after Pascal's great grandfather Omer who made tomato based liqueur in Belgium in 1938. Since its launch 2 years ago he has sold over 65,000 bottles.

The wine is made from 6,200 heirloom tomato plants on his organic “vineyard” in Charlevoix, 400km northeast of Montreal. Pascal told the French news agency AFP that before making his first batch, he tested 16 varieties of tomatoes in order to find six that grew well in Quebec’s cool climate. He makes wine the same way in which wine is made using grapes: careful selection, crushing, soaking, fermenting and pressing.

The result is Omerto Sec, a clear, dry, 18% wine, and Omerto Moelleux, a sweeter wine that has been compared to French aperitif Pineau des Charentes. According to Pascal, there is no trace of tomato in the wine, not even in the taste.

The Omerto Sec is described as having the colour of golden wheat with aromas similar to Sauvignon Blanc and lemon and grapefruit. Suggested food pairings are smoked salmon, sushi, cheese fondue, smoked sausage, mussels and oysters.

Elen Garon, sommelier at hotel restaurant La Ferme a Baie-Saint-Paul, describes the ”honey sweet” Omerto Moelleux as having: “a hint of fruit” and “zesty aspects,” and believes it will match well with desserts and spicy food.

Pascal is keen to market his wine abroad and is seeking distribution in the USA, France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. Although he can legally call his product 'wine' in North America, he will have to rename it if he starts exporting it to France, where only alcoholic beverages made from fermented grape juice can be called wine.

I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has tried it!


superchick said...

write about tomato seeds that are better than whats on offer in shops

Sue said...

I've just been making lists of the tomatoes I want to grow for next year!

This year I grew Tigerella and Gardeners Delight and the crop was half that of the year before due to the wet and cold conditions. No blight though luckily!

I am thinking of trying some heritage or Russian/Ukraine black skinned varieties for next year as they might stand the conditions better if we have another bad year.

I buy from seed catalogues - Thompson & Morgan, D T Brown, Fothergills, Marshalls etc but there is a really good selection in the Plants of Distinction I think I will opt for.

All ideas/recommendations gratefully received!