Food Well Done

5 of New York's Savviest Sommeliers Reveal What You're Still Getting Wrong About Wine

Whether you reach for an unfiltered red oozing barnyard funk or a flinty, crisp Chablis, New York’s gangbuster wine bar scene always has something to offer. CULTURED turned to five people and places defining the city’s vino scene today to help you make the most of the season—and inspire you to ask for what you want without getting intimidated.

Severine Perru. Photography by Charles Billot and courtesy of Perru.

The Ten Bells 

Severine Perru developed her palette in Jura, France’s smallest wine region. Having worked with The Ten Bells, one of New York’s oldest natural wine bars, for over 10 years, she now splits her time between the Lower East Side bar and vineyards across the world. 

How would you describe The Ten Bells in three words?  

Authentic, extremely welcoming, respectful. 

What's one thing you wish that customers knew coming into the bar?

I don't want them to know anything. I just want them to have a good time and be curious. We've always said, "Do you like the first sip of your wine?" You don't have to know how to taste wine—this is the only thing you need to know. Wine is about enjoying a moment with friends.

The Ten Bells. Photography by Veljko Papic and courtesy of The Ten Bells.

What is your ideal wine for a first date?

Everybody talks about Champagne, and I love Champagne. But Crémant is also an amazing wine with bubbles. So I would say, a very nice Crémant from Alsace, like a Jean-Pierre Rietsch Crémant.

What is an underrated wine to drink right now? 

Wine made with grapes that people don't necessarily talk about. I really like Silvaner at the moment. Also, wines from new winemakers that haven't been too much on the scene: the new generation of winemakers in Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Alsace, and Australia. 

What do you think is next in the wine world?

There's so much good wine out there, I think what's important to focus on is the respect of people, the respect of the workers, and the respect of the winemaking. I've always been very mindful to not pick wines when I witnessed behavior that was not respectful, or when I heard things about the producer. I also think pet nats are [becoming less popular] now. 

Grant Reynolds. Photography by Matt Dutile and courtesy of Parcelle.


When Grant Reynolds established the brick-and-mortar extension of his online wine shop in 2022, he decorated it with comfortable, found furniture rooted in French and Italian design. Now, the Chinatown wine bar and restaurant is carving its own path. “We're not trying to be a Parisian style wine bar or a Spanish tapas bar,” Reynolds tells CULTURED. “We're not a love letter to some [other] place.” 

How would you describe the wine bar in three words?

Homey, delicious, and big wine list.

How would you characterize the terroir of Parcelle? 

What we wanted to try to do within a really small space is make a room that was conducive to both [dining and having a glass of wine]. That really came from a mix of both residential, living-room seating—like chairs and small couches—and furniture that would be found in a dining room. Much like a New York apartment … there's not like a lounge space and then you go into the dining room, it's all kind of mixed into one.

Is there something that you wish that more customers knew?

On average, most people have two glasses of wine. So if you're sitting with a friend, you should probably just drink a bottle.

Parcelle. Photography by Matt Dutile and courtesy of Parcelle.

What’s something that people still get wrong about wine? 

That champagne should be served in flutes.

What is an underrated wine to drink right now? And overrated?

Overrated: pet nat. Underrated: Chablis.

What is your ideal wine for a first date?

First date: red Burgundy, because it's my favorite wine, and I feel like you should be really optimistic on your first date. Otherwise, why are you there?

What do you think is next for the wine world? What are you excited to see more or less of moving forward?

I'm really excited to see thoughtful wine lists in restaurants that aren't just French and Italian. I think between LA and New York, we’ve seen a few really smart wine programs in places where you don't traditionally see big wine lists. Some of that's Mexican, Latin American, or the very wide range of different Asian cuisines—places that, only a few years ago, you wouldn't really find them.

picture-of-Fernando Martinez-Lopez-and-Nodar-Toronjadze-outside-cellar-36
Fernando Martinez Lopez and Nodar Toronjadze. Image courtesy of Lopez and Toronjadze.

Cellar 36

The Ten Bells veterans Nodar Toronjadze and Fernando Martinez Lopez found the location for their new bar by walking the streets of New York. The owners have been bringing natty wine to the Twin Bridges area since last July, with little need to advertise their venture. 

How would you describe Cellar 36 in three words? 

Simple, straightforward, juicy. 

How would you image a signature Cellar 36 wine?

I'm a big fan of Cabernet Franc, and I’ve started drinking a bunch of Gamay. It’s not too heavy, not too light—it has structure. If I could just pour everybody a good, juicy Gamay, that would create a fun environment.

What’s one thing you wish customers knew? 

When I started going to The Ten Bells, back in maybe 2011, I didn't really know anything about wine. Even though I come from Georgia, which is a super big wine country, and I grew up seeing my grandfather making wine. I just drank because I liked the taste. I didn’t ask questions until later. Don't be scared to feel dumb about asking simple questions. I love the simple questions. That's where good conversation usually starts. 

What do you think is an underrated type of wine to drink right now? 

Sometimes Chardonnay gets a bad rap. People have all these ideas of what they know from conventional wines that they direct to the natural wine world. But Chardonnay is a beautiful, versatile grape. It's under-appreciated.

What's your ideal wine for a first date? And for a breakup?

I'm a big red wine guy. For a date, I would suggest at least two bottles throughout the evening. I would start with a lighter red, or a direct press of some sort that usually has a slight structure and it's slightly chilled. And then continue with either a good Cab Franc or Gamay. It will definitely push the conversation—that's what red wine does.

Basile Al Mileik. Photography by Daniela Tarquino and courtesy of St. Jardim.

St. Jardim

Basile Al Mileik has curated St. Jardim’s wine list since its inception, bringing his Parisian wine experience to the West Village cafe and bar. His biggest surprise along the way? The variety of wines they are able to sell, from wild and “uber-natural” to classic names. 

How would you describe St. Jardim in just three words?

Cafe, wine, bar. Cafe in the European sense—it’s open morning to night and the same staff can pull you a really nice shot of espresso and sell you on a bottle of Fleurie.

If we planted grape vines in your wine bar, how would you characterize the terroir? 

I think of vineyards as real estate, so we definitely have a Burgundy location. It shows in our clientele and our service. If we made wine, it would be a very pure, pretty pinot. Maybe we wouldn't have the oldest vines, but we’d be the really interesting up-and-coming young winemaker.

St Jardim. Photography by Daniela Tarquino and courtesy of St. Jardim.

Do you have an ideal wine for a first date?

Champagne. On a first date, a bright, more chalky, fresh chardonnay-driven champagne from the Côte des Blancs sounds really nice to me. 

What’s an underrated type of wine to drink right now? Overrated?

I actually think rosé is underrated. There's a lot of really bad rosés out there, especially some places in the south of France [that] use a lot of commercial yeast. But the rosé and very light red categories have become very intertwined and there are really interesting dark roses out there. And overrated… I'm not a huge Piquette person. 

What's one thing that you think people still get wrong about wine?

That the more you spend, the better the wine is. 

Image courtesy of Julie Carpenter.


Originally from none other than Champagne, Julie Carpenter cut her teeth in Berlin’s ever-growing restaurant world. Having studied wine and refined her palette on her own, she stepped up as the Williamsburg disco-ball-studded bar’s wine director in February, and now also helms Sauced’s new East Village location, which opened early March

How would you describe Sauced? 

I really like what the co-owner, Vincent Marino, says about Sauced: we are not a wine bar, we are a bar serving wine. There is a bit of everything for everybody, for every budget. 

What would be Sauced’s “signature” wine? 

A Sauced wine for me is definitely an orange, a bit funky, light and juicy, a bit sexy—low intervention for sure. An unconventional wine. We were selling so many bottles of Macarello each week, and that’s really a good example. 

What’s one thing you wish customers ordering at the bar knew? 

Our job is to guide our guests, to ask them questions to help them find what they want. It’s always helpful when they know which color they’re looking for, but I want them to be comfortable, not to fixate too much if they feel like they don’t have enough wine knowledge—we’re here to help. 

Image courtesy of Sauced.

What’s one question you wish people would stop asking you? 

Sometimes people focus a lot on the grapes: Do you have a Cabernet Sauvignon? Do you have a Pinot Grigio? It’s always nice when people want to be surprised a little. In low-intervention wine, the wines are not really stable. [The taste of] a grape from one wine to another can change; the wine is still moving in the bottle. The way the winemaker is working with the grape can make it taste really different. 

What do you think is next in the wine world? 

I’m curious to see what will happen with global warming, if winemakers overall will stop using pesticides. I’m looking to see if the biggest wine-making regions will move to the north, and what will happen with existing vineyards as the climate changes. 

What’s your ideal wine for a first date?

For a first date, a light red for sure, it’ll keep your mind a bit clear. I’m thinking of wines by Anders Frederick Steen from Ardèche, [France], with grapes like Grenache and Carignan. He even makes wines with poetic names like “I hate to say goodbye,” or “Now is when I know I love you.”