It is rare that I truly enjoy wine books that offer wine pairings. I find many of the pairings in books or articles I read to be either obscure, esoteric or simply inept. As I studied for my level 2 sommelier certification I found the wine pairing aspect to poke at the creative portion of my brain that thinks outside the box — the higher level cortex functioning. With my background in clinical psychology, I found this combination of utilizing both fields particularly enticing. Many authors that offer wine pairings do not create the pairings from unique or outside of the box varietals, as Paul Zitarelli has done here.
Wine writer Paul Zitarelli has an impressive wine writing background, and has created one of the most successful online retail shops in the Pacific Northwest, Full Pull Wines. His new book, 36 Bottles of Wine pushes the envelope in examining good food and wine pairings and offering monthly wine explorations. I can’t think of a wine book that I have read that also works to heighten the pleasure of matching food and wine, offering good examples of unique varietals to pair with food. I admire that this book reads well for the wine tyro and wine geek. The book is well-written in straightforward language so that if you are starting to learn more about wine you don’t have to constantly consult your thesaurus. As someone who lacks artistic astuteness, Paul's photos, sometimes full-paged spreads, are stunning, making the reader salivate and enticing them to create his recommended dishes. There is also a brief, but well-written section on how to understand faulty wines, which can be particularly helpful for those with entry level or intermediate level knowledge in wines. In short, 36 Bottles of Wine is one of the great succinctly written books I have read that expands both knowledge and appreciation of wine, wine varietals and wine pairings.