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The making of WineStein

You love wine and you don’t really know that much about it, like most people. But you do love wine, and you would want to drink it with the food that matches best with the wines you love. But again, you don’t know all that much about it, like most people.Pairing food & wine is the domain of the sommelier, which is the originally French term for the expert who works in – often high end – restaurants. If you can afford to go there, you’ll have this service available. If you’re cooking at home, chances are that you haven’t. What then?

In 2006, four wine lovers from The Netherlands found themselves confronted with this problem. Apart from being wine lovers, they were also a rather interesting bunch. Their small group consisted of a visionary entrepreneur, a former Michelin star chef, a wine expert studying at the Institute of Masters of Wine in London and a Riesling fanatic financial expert. And they decided to do something about it. Basically, their idea was simple: what the world would need is something that allows you to enter what you’re having for dinner, and the thing to be developed would tell you which wine type best to drink with it.

Looking back at that decision, it was a brave one. There would be a lot of effort in this, but they soon envisioned there would also be a really world wide potential for software capable of bringing this off. Apart from home use, they pictured supermarkets, wine shops, restaurants and web shops selling wine as potential users of this type of device.So, they never gave up, even when it meant five years or research and development before the birth of the device that did this trick could be announced: and their ‘kid’ was aptly named WineStein.

Technically, in order to make this work, you can try relying on rules. But… there’s a lot of rules to be taken into account here. Ask a good sommelier what (s)he’s thinking when considering the best match for a specific dish. We did that, and it didn’t make us happy. Frankly, there are too many rules and exceptions to ever make a rule based system really work, unless you want to settle for very basic pairing advice. It’s what our competitors did, and we felt that just wasn’t good enough.

So, what then? Luckily, modern science has taken up the challenge of getting to terms with a lot of highly complicated decision making. It’s the world of data mining, neural networks and other types of advanced math that – when done properly – will succeed in ‘capturing’ the way an expert person reasons. And that’s what we opted for in developing WineStein. Not that things got suddenly very easy from there. But now that we have found the trick, we have time at hand: since software of this type is self-learning, our ‘kid’ will only get better.

To give you an idea of what goes on inside WineStein: there’s a dazzling amount of number crunching going on every time you use it. WineStein essentially calculates a big range of taste and aromatic aspects of both wine and dish. Basically, we convert everything that matters in a wine & food match into numbers. How exactly is the chef’s secret of course, and like good cooks, we’ll never tell. However, we can tell you that once WineStein has done the ‘basic’ math on what you tell it you want to eat, it will start a search among the over 50,000 examples of wine & food pairings (and mispairings!) that is was ‘trained’ with. This core of data forms the real strength of WineStein above any other device currently available in the market, and it was developed with high level expertise in wine and wine & food pairing. The crux of what WineStein is able to do lies in careful structural analysis of any aspect involved in pairing wine with food, and subsequently using this structural analysis in a non rule based system that is able to calculate the relevance of any gastronomic property for a certain pairing. And, as we said, this involves a dazzling amount of number crunching. To bring off its ‘trick’, WineStein will make its way through literally millions of possible permutations of stuff that potentially matters in wine & food pairings,before it comes up with its results. So, in case you’re wondering why this takes a few seconds, this is why: after all, a couple of million is a decent lot, even for the serious computer system that WineStein runs on.

All this advanced technology is neatly hidden behind the various user interfaces. It’s something we chose to hide because your interest will likely be in the answers provided. But still it’s good to know there is serious science behind WineStein, and it’s science that will enable WineStein to be as versatile as you could possibly wish. Powered with an algorithm able to calculate gastronomic properties of any dish, WineStein can answer virtually any question on wine & food pairing. Of course, we can also enter your recipes or menu in the engine, but it’s good to know that whenever you change something there, WineStein will just as easily take these changes into account. Furthermore, WineStein uses several hundred different wine types to calculate the best wine pairings from, and it’s a set that we’re able to expand whenever there’s a need for that. And if you’d want to use WineStein ‘the other way around’, that can be done as well. Our engine stores every request made anywhere in this world - and we registered close to 500,000 within the first months of the launch of our products – enabling it to present the best food pairings with a certain wine upon request.

So, after a serious amount of effort, the interesting bunch of four wine lovers from The Netherlands are happy to present you WineStein. In their opinion, it’s the perfect answer to a question millions of wine lovers all over the world have: they want to enjoy their food with the best matching wines without the need to be a wine expert. They want reliable advice, and they want it in a cool and downright fun way. Beit in a kiosk, in your supermarket or wine shop, in a web shop or in a smart tablet that’s used in your favorite restaurant. WineStein is all that!