Originally from Roanne, France, Emilie Perrier came to New York City in 2003, where she began her culinary career at Murray’s Cheese Shop. She quickly switched gears from fromage to vin and received her American Sommelier certification in 2004, while working at Asiate at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Next she joined the wine team at The Modern as the assistant wine director. In 2007, Perrier moved on to become wine director at Joël Robuchon’s L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in New York City, where she fulfilled every sommelier’s dream: developing her own wine program instead of running an existing one.
In 2009, Perrier opened Sho Shaun Hergatt in New York’s Financial District (receiving one Michelin star for outstanding wine list) and was honored as a 2010 “Top Ten Best Sommelier North America” from Food and Wine Magazine. Also in 2010, Perrier joined Michael White’s Altamarea Group to help open Ai Fiori in the Setai Hotel. She is now the resident wine director, pouring wines and serving guests with her pretense-free philosophy. Perrier reigns over a wine list hovering at 50 pages in length and boasting beloved American and New World Wines while maintaining an impressive selection of European staples.
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Interview with Sommelier Emilie Perrier of Ai Fiori – New York, NY
Dan Catinella: How did you develop an interest in wine?
Emilie Perrier: I grew up with it in France and began to miss it when I moved to the
DC: What year did you begin your culinary career?
EP: I began in 2003, but was working in cheese. I worked for a year at Murray’s Cheese Shop.
DC: What sets apart the wine on Ai Fiori’s list?
EP: They have personality and are all made by fantastic winemakers that match our restaurant’s style. Yet, they somehow manage to be unique in their own way.
DC: Where have you worked previously?
EP: Asiate, The Modern, Atelier de Joël Robuchon, and Sho Shaun Hergatt
DC: What courses have you taken? Certifications? Awards won?
EP: American Sommelier Association, Viti-Vini, and I practiced for blind tasting.
DC: What is your philosophy on wine and food?
EP: Harmony and elegance are key components, and they must complement each other toward being memorable.
DC: Do your wines reflect Old World, New World, or a mix of choices?
EP: I would say that we carry more Old World wine since we are a French-Italian restaurant.
DC: List your favorite wine resource book and author:
EP: Any books from Jancis. Robinson. I also like Clive Coates.
DC: Tell me about a perfect food match with your wines?
EP: A glass of crisp, saline Italian white, such as a Pigato from Liguria, or an Etna Bianco from Sicily paired with our squid ink pasta with shellfish ragout.
DC: What wines do you favor for your cellar at home?
EP: White and Red Burgundies, Russian River Whites, a lot of California varietals, such as Chardonnay. I also have some bottles from the Ribera and Rias Baixus regions of Spain.
DC: Who are your mentors? What are some of the most important things you’ve learned from them?
EP: Stephane Colling from The Modern introduced me to the depth of French wine. But, my best mentor is Hristo Zizovski. He taught me how to manage a wine list better and to mold a team.
DC: What producers are you interested in at the moment?
EP: Stephane Tissot in the Jura. I love his wines.
DC: Which person in history would you most like to share a bottle of wine? What would you pour?
EP: I would probably choose Michelle Obama since she is a great woman who marks her time and shares her passion. I would open a red Burgundy, such as Chambolle Musigny from George Roumier. They are elegant, bright, lively, and I think Michelle would enjoy it.