The Max McCalman Cheese & Wine Pairing App is about to hit the App Store.
It all began about twenty years ago, one block east of Lincoln Center, when a guest at Picholine Restaurant declined the suggestion of Port for his cheese selection and asked for a different wine-by-the-glass option instead. This began my quest for optimal pairings for all the fine cheeses I would encounter. I initially wrote out notes on each pairing: The Silverado Cabernet Sauvignon starts off on the right foot with the Spenwood, fruity vs. savory, then they go their separate ways, with no synergy in the “finish;” all that remains is a memory of the Cab while the cheese lingers sweetly to the end; the wine is flattened.
Even though extensive and informative, these notes were not user-friendly for quick reference. Those thoughts were recorded onto a Word document but were quickly replaced with quantifiable scores so that I could look up Cabernet Sauvignon, for example to find a complementing selection of cheeses, or in reverse, look up Spenwood and find a list of satisfactory wine partners. An early decision to be made was how to score those cheese and wine matches. I came up with a five-point spread, from +2 (a great match) to -2 (a disaster), with 0 being the neutral point (nothing lost, nothing gained). There was a temptation to rate a pairing a 0+ from time to time, but I soon left those middling scores for others to record and stuck to whole numbers.
The word document grew rapidly, from a few dozen scores to hundreds, then to thousands and was lined up by cheese name, from Aarauer Bierdeckel to Zamorano. Then a second document was created by wine varietal, from Albariño to Zinfandel. Some of the first notes were not detailed but later entries included more information: ABV, vintage, vineyard, as well as date the pairing was tasted, always followed by the score.
These scores became handy reference tools and they helped shape content of all my books, from The Cheese Plate through to my Swatchbook of Wine & Cheese Pairings. Occasionally I received requests for recommended beer, whiskey, martini, even sake pairings. Some of the “rules” of pairings began to crumble, starting with “What grows together goes together.” Other pairing principles held more promise: The “fruit” in a wine is balanced by the “savory” in a cheese, the “size” of a cheese should be balanced by “size” in the wine, etc.
At times I would record multiple pairings, tasting as many as seven different wines against nine different cheeses, for a total of sixty-three pairing entries. This is how the database grew exponentially explaining why I wished I had started it all off on Excel.
Converting all of this data into a viable app has been a months long project and it appears we can finally see the light at the end of the proverbial cheese tunnel now. The first version of the app will launch May 1st (subject to Apple’s approval) and will be supported by iPhone, with a nice chunk of the thousands of pairings included. The frequent updates will include new entries, interactive features for the subscribers, such as adding their own scores and comments, ‘favoriting’ cheeses, wines, and pairings, as well as a revolutionary in-app purchasing and fulfillment solution. Future extensions will feature beer pairings, then spirits, then ciders, etc.
Be on the lookout for this; it’s going to be fun. It all started with: I would rather have a different wine with my cheeses, not Port, sir.
Can’t wait for May!