Creating mapping software that visually plots the relationships between genes and molecules sounds like the opposite of wine-and-cheese-party chitchat. But thanks to a professor of molecular genetics who happens to be a wine and cheese aficionado, now there's an incredibly cool new app that makes it easy to find the perfect wine to serve with your cheeses every time.
Log onto WineAndCheeseMap.com on your desktop, tablet or smartphone and you’ll see what looks like a solar system caught in a spider web. Each circle on the interactive display represents a wine or cheese: There are about 270 yellow circles for cheeses, and the red and white circles represent roughly 100 different kinds of wine. Zoom in to a single yellow circle and you’ll see the best wine pairing recommendations for that particular cheese, as well as which other cheeses are most similar to it in taste. If you have a favorite wine, you can likewise find out which cheeses match up well and which other wines are most similar.
WineAndCheeseMap.com was launched in December by Gary Bader, who runs a lab at the University of Toronto dedicated to cytoscape technology, designing visual tools to help biologists discover connections within large amounts of data. The inspiration to apply his info-organizing know-how to wine and cheese came from two people: professional turophile Max McCalman, author of Cheese: A Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Best, and Bader’s wife, Shawna Silver.
“We were reading [McCalman’s] book when my wife realized it had a page describing each cheese, a score according to how good the cheese was and then the wines that paired with it,” Bader says. “But if you look at the book, you wouldn’t be able to see these connections; we wanted a new way of looking at it. So we manually transferred this info into the program. It took some evenings, but we were reading the book anyway.”
Though the app is designed with pairing in mind, Bader has also found it helpful for finding new cheeses to love. “If I’m at a cheese store and I want to try out a new cheese,” he explains, “I can find a cheese that I like, say a Gruyere, and if I click on that I’ll find out other cheeses that taste similar.” That’s how he recently got into Beaufort, a raw cow’s milk variety from the French alps that’s a close cousin to Gruyere, and discovered that it pairs wonderfully with Chardonnays. Other favorite, recent discoveries include a Manchego-like cheese called Zamorano that pairs perfectly with California Zins, and “finding out that there are really good, quality Cheddars that we don’t always hear about that really pair well with Syrahs and red Bordeaux.”
Speaking of expanding horizons, while the app currently contains non-wine tipples like cider, Bader aims to plug in more data on drinks like Champagne, port and beer. For that, you can once again credit Silver, his wife. “She’s just interested in new stuff, so now she wants to expand into beer tasting,” he says. “We just love exploring new foods.”
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