Interview with Antoine Schvartz, co-founder of Sydonios

In 2018, this former Bordeaux crus classés broker co-founded the Sydonios wine glass company. Since then, his mouth-blown creations have made a name for themselves in Champagne and Bordeaux, before going international. Here’s a look back at his conversion, the approach he has taken and his future projects…

How did Sydonios come about?

As a wine broker for four years, in constant contact with the great names of Bordeaux, I gradually sensed a demand for light, fine and precise glasses. 6 years ago, there was simply no such thing. Baptiste Larbre, my partner, who comes from the insurance world, and I took the plunge…

It was a daring gamble, wasn’t it?

When you’re 28 and you’ve had some very positive experiences, you don’t really ask yourself these kinds of questions. You just go for it. It was more madness than courage. We certainly underestimated the difficulties that would arise. And that’s just as well! Otherwise, we wouldn’t have done anything!

How did you go about it?

As graduates of Sciences Po Paris, Baptiste Larbre and I admittedly have no expertise in glassmaking. So there was no question of us deciding on our own exactly which glasses to make. In the same way, we didn’t think it would be very clever to ask a sommelier to design ‘his’ ideal glass and then market it. No, with no money in our pockets, we opted for a more serious solution in our eyes: a particularly thorough scientific study of the impact of glasses on tasting. As a first step, Baptiste and I set off to meet and interview around fifty renowned winemakers. I remember some fascinating discussions, particularly with Drappier… Their feedback and all the scientific articles at our disposal enabled us to create 7 glasses. In a second phase, around a hundred wine professionals tested these creations on 6 wines that were deliberately very contrasting. Only the 2 glasses with the highest scores were selected.

You now offer 2 different ranges of 3 glasses each: what makes them special?

At Sydonios, we don’t talk about a Burgundy glass, or even a white wine glass… Our scientific approach and, beyond that, our discussions with winemakers and sommeliers have highlighted three major sensory characteristics of wines. Regardless of their region of origin, most of them fall into one of these categories: powerful, tannic wines, wines with a mineral touch and, finally, wines with a fine structure. Sydonios glasses for everyone: Le Méridional and L’Esthète for the first, Empreinte and L’Universel for the second, Le Septentrional and Le Subtil for the third.

Does each wine’s sensory characteristics call for a unique glass shape?

No, that’s the magic of this world. A manufacturer could very well produce so-called Burgundy glasses perfectly suited to powerful, tannic wines. In this field, contours don’t matter all that much. The key factor is the ratio between the opening diameter of the glass and its widest diameter. Outside this range, almost anything is possible.

Who are Sydonios’ customers?

There are individual wine lovers all over the world – we export our offer to 36 countries -, gourmet restaurants and winegrowers. Not everyone has the same expectations. Generally speaking, some customers prefer large glasses for purely aesthetic reasons. With this in mind, we have created 2 ranges: Racine, with medium-sized containers, and Terroir, with larger glasses. In detail, restaurateurs are particularly sensitive to tableware, and therefore to the lines of their glassware. The men and women in the wine industry, on the other hand, demand above all precision. The glassware produced must reflect as faithfully as possible the work carried out in the vineyards and in the cellar.

Does this quest for precision explain the choice of mouth-blown rather than mechanical production?

Blow-moulding offers total freedom in terms of shape. Whereas ‘mechanical’ production, although it has made progress in recent years, is still dependent on the machine and its constraints. These are certainly details, but they make all the difference. As in wine-making…

How is production organised?

Sydonios was created with the support of a glassmaking partner in the Czech Republic, in Bohemia. Historically, this is where the necessary expertise is concentrated. Driven by the desire to manufacture in France, we had the crazy idea of importing these techniques and processes. It was a huge undertaking. It took over 3 years to complete the project. Since last September, all the glasses for the French market have been produced in Lille. Something to be proud of. Once again, this brings us closer to the winegrowers: production means humility on a daily basis. They regularly have their share of problems. And so do we.

Is there a lot of ‘breakage’?

Let’s just say that, at our level of requirements, 50% of production is affected by a defect. With today’s energy costs and the cost of skilled labour, it makes no sense to recast these ‘imperfect’ glasses. We came up with the idea of marketing them, at a lower price, under the name of the U.B.A. range ( Unperfect But Amazing). It’s difficult to innovate in the world of glass. We were a little frustrated about that…

What about the future?

The Lille production site needs to be stabilised. New processes need to be put in place to further optimise it. On top of that, our current major focus is the American market: a real sales challenge for us…