I came across, recently, a new iPhone app from a Dutch company called WineStein. The app is really pretty impressive. It has a massive and ever increasing database of wine and the exact scientific food matching for different wines. This can be as simple as searching Australian Shiraz and a list of apt dishes will be generated or more complicated, searching for a specific wine of a specific age range (unfortunately not vintage specific yet, just young, ready and aged) and it will generate appropriate dishes for the specific wine, for example if you were to search for Chateau Lynch-Bages, ready (so the 1982-1999 vintages) then it would appropriate certain dishes. Baked entrecote with herb butter and gratin potatoes was the top suggestion, with a number of suggested dishes following reducing from a 100% match downwards.
This is clever and good fun if you have a certain bottle or a special bottle and would like something that will match it perfectly but it is a little cleverer when you do it backwards, selecting a meal and seeing which wine it would recommend. The categories for this are vegetarian, fish, meat, pasta, pizza or cheese, select one of these, e.g. meat, and it gives you a list of meats, then you can add ingredients, i.e. potatoes, sauces, vegetables, etc , each of these coming with a pretty comprehensive list so that you can really tailor the dish, then click show wine partnerships and it will generate a list again from 100% in descending order. I went with Angus fillet steak, chips, pepper sauce and green asparagus as an example and it kicked out a ready (again 1982-1999) Medoc and gave me a bit of information on the wine. It works by matching a list of “wine DNA” with the “food DNA” in its data and the lists are pretty comprehensive. The matches it comes up with a by and large correct, for example if you put a lot of acidic food, tomato sauce, olives, capers and pasta it will give you quite acidic wine, if you put massive thick protein filled steak it will suggest something bold and tannic. It can be fun to throw it a curve ball and see how it copes, so instead of a straight forward meal, meat, veg, potatoes, you do corned beef, salted anchovy butter, semolina and Bailey’s it still gives you a 100% match, it was Southern Europe Pinot Noir, though I would recommend just drinking the wine I imagine nothing could improve or bring together a dish like that.
The other useful thing about the app is that they have started to affiliate themselves with restaurants, meaning that you can access the restaurant’s menu before you arrive and match a wine for what you fancy eating from the restaurant’s wine list, or in some cases the restaurant will have a tablet with the app available for you to match when you are there. This is useful, but I can’t see it usurping sommeliers just yet.
As I said the app is good fun and quite handy for people who have either little or no knowledge about wine and wine-food matching in particular. What’s more it is free for consumers, though restaurants need to pay to be featured, and is currently only available through the Apple app market, though they ensured me that an Android version should be following soon.
Andrew D. Clark