Inside La Place – In service of the winemaker

Antoine Schvartz

Co-founder of Glass Factory Sydonios & General Manager

Working at Sydonios since 2018

Gerda: Tell us about you…

Antoine Schvartz: I was originally a courtier in La Place de Bordeaux, I took a significant turn in my career to create Sydonios, a young French brand of tasting glasses offering unparalleled oenological precision. This change was motivated by personal considerations, mainly following my wife to Brussels. Fortunately, this choice proved to be extremely rewarding.

I am deeply passionate about the table’s art setting and craftsmanship. Receiving emails from the famous auction house, Drouot, is always an exciting moment for me. My nights are often interrupted by sessions of hunting for unique and fascinating plates. This represents a perfect balance between my passion for the art of table setting and my commitment to the world of craftsmanship. These two aspects of my professional and personal life feed off each other, creating a unique dynamic that inspires me daily.

G: Why did you create a glass factory?

ASOur journey to create this glass factory stemmed from a realization: the greatest wines in the world are produced in France, mainly in Bordeaux, yet no French supplier could provide glasses for these exceptional wines. As proud French nationals, my partner Baptiste Larbre and I saw an opportunity: to produce glasses in France that precisely meet the expectations of wine estates. It was a challenge we were ready to take on.

As any young entrepreneur passionate about starting a business, we conducted a thorough market analysis to identify gaps in the offering, as well as a comprehensive scientific study for production. We truly started from scratch, with just a sheet of paper and a pencil six years ago. After a few years of outsourcing manufacturing, we managed to establish our glassworks. Located in Bondues, just 10 km north of Lille, it embodies our pride in being 100% Made in France, lead-free manufacturing.

The “made in France” label has always been our compass. Currently, we are the only manufacturer in France to use the iconic technique of the Bohemian glassworks, a region between Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Our approach is oenological, as our DNA is centered on serving winemakers. Since June 2023, we own the factory, and I insist that all our glasses and decanters are handmade. The project has had its ups and downs, especially due to the absence of this expertise in France. We made the bold choice to work with young talents. Despite initial doubts, we formed a dynamic team of exceptional young glassblowers, led by a senior glassblower. This team of 13 collaborators, including 10 dedicated to production, represents our commitment to excellence and passion for craftsmanship. We are focused on production, and everyone works hard to achieve our goals.

G: Can you tell us about the main challenges you personally face in the practice of your profession?

ASOne of the main challenges I encounter is my great impatience. Acquiring the necessary expertise in glass factory requires considerable patience, as this craft is based on the art of repetition. Perfecting a gesture requires meticulous and constant repetition, which contrasts with my tendency to want immediate results. This is undoubtedly the biggest challenge for me, as the gap between entrepreneurial ambitions outlined in an Excel business plan and reality is significant.

The process of setting up our manufacture also took longer than expected. I dedicated three years to the project before even hiring staff. It is crucial to emphasize that France offers an exceptional environment for entrepreneurs. We received considerable support from the region, the community of communes, and the BPI (Public Investment Bank), resources that can be scarce in other countries. In my eyes, France is a true paradise for those who wish to create and innovate. The BPI, in particular, has been an incredible tool, allowing entrepreneurs like us, with limited financial resources, to realize industrial production projects that require substantial investments. This help has been simply phenomenal.

We also benefited from the support of ergonomists, funded by public funds. Being part of our country’s economy by creating jobs is a source of pride for us, and the support we have received highlights the wealth of resources available for entrepreneurs in France. It’s a breathtaking experience, and we are happy to actively contribute to the economic dynamism of our country.

The brand Sydonios today and tomorrow


Gerda: What positioning do you want for Sydonios?

ASWe are attentive to the dynamics of our sector by observing what our competitors are doing. A marked trend currently is the aggressiveness of Chinese manufacturers, prompting many competitors to relocate their production to China. Although this may put pressure on the market, it does not scare us, but we must consider it. The brand is established, and our top priority is customer satisfaction. This is the central point of our production approach.

All our glasses and decanters are subject to rigorous controls, as customer satisfaction guarantees revenue for the coming months, even years. Owning our manufacture also gives us the advantage of carrying out custom projects. If a wine estate wants a decanter with a specific design, we can create it according to their preferences.

Our DNA is deeply rooted in serving winemakers. Gaining the recognition of a winemaker has a positive impact on our commercial positioning. We are determined to maintain this service-oriented approach and to build strong relationships with winemakers, as their approval contributes significantly to our success in the market.

GWhat makes your glasses stand out and unique?

ASThe key element we emphasize is “made in France”, but our approach differs slightly from our peers. We have chosen to present our glasses by highlighting their sensory typicity. Our approach is different, unlike the traditional classification into red wine, white wine, or glasses dedicated to a specific variety like cabernet. In Burgundy, for example, wine from vines planted at different densities can vary significantly, rendering the idea of a glass dedicated to pinot noir, for example, obsolete. With the diversity of winemakers and vintages, the world of wine has evolved significantly.

That’s why we focus on sensory typicity and have developed specific glasses for powerful and tannic wines, wines on minerality, and wines with a fine structure. This approach stems from a scientific study conducted at the beginning of our project, involving 100 professionals from the wine world. We are convinced that our approach is the most relevant and accurate in terms of presenting glasses. Moreover, we are the only ones to present our glasses in this way.

G: Which of your recent achievements would you like to share with your clientele?

ASWithout a doubt, the creation of our glassworks. Starting from scratch to build this achievement was a significant challenge. At the beginning of the project, I may not have fully realized the extent of this endeavor, and perhaps that’s for the best, as it might have influenced my determination. However, my greatest source of pride lies in the youth of our team. This demonstrates that young people have a real willingness to work and proves that, in France, entrepreneurship is still possible.

Every morning, our glassblowers are at work by 6:30 a.m. It’s amazing to have such a talented and committed team. As an employer, I feel a great sense of pride, but it also obliges me to maintain a high level of performance. I have a responsibility towards them, to show commitment and determination to ensure the ongoing success of our business.

G: What future projects are you currently working on? (Technical, marketing, or commercial)

AS: Currently, we are invested in a major project to create spittoons. It’s a very creative process, but like all craftsmanship, it will still take about a year before it is completely finalized. We are aware that each step of this process takes time, but we are doing everything to ensure that the result lives up to our commitment to quality and innovation.

The business


G: What are your priorities in terms of commercial development?

ASOver the past three years, we have experienced very rapid growth, exceeding 100% annual growth. However, during this period, we somewhat drifted away from our customers, as I was entirely focused 100% on creating our manufacture. Now that I can free up some time, my top priority is strengthening ties with all our distribution networks and developing our custom project.

Customization is an area we are betting a lot on. We already have some ongoing business with major porcelain manufacturers and wine estates. We are convinced that custom-made in France will have a favorable impact. Although we are present in more than 40 countries, our largest market remains France, accounting for about a third of our turnover. Bordeaux in particular, accounts for 8% of our turnover. It is important to underline that our existence is partly due to Bordeaux, which has played a crucial role from the beginning. Many describe our journey as a “success story”, but personally, I am too immersed in daily to perceive it that way. The champagne market is also very important for us, but it is clearly Bordeaux that has propelled Sydonios, and by far. We can never thank the Bordeaux estates and negociant enough, especially Roland Coiffe, who quickly trusted us.

G: Would you like to add any further comments?

ASI would like to invite everyone to come and visit us at the manufacture. We will be delighted to share our expertise and show you our constant search for excellence. I could talk about production for hours, as I deeply underestimated how much every detail matters in creating a perfect piece. There are technical choices to be made, and every decision has repercussions.

There were weeks, months where I spent sleepless nights. It was a very intense period. Would I do it all over again? Fortunately, I had the unwavering support of my wife and children, and I am a positive person. That said, one must fight, because reintroducing this expertise in France cost us so much energy that it is imperative to maintain it. We have an exceptional team.

For two years, I hadn’t come to Bordeaux, and I am amazed to see the new constructions of the wine cellars here. It’s magnificent, and it’s fantastic that we are suppliers for these mythical crus. I look forward to bringing my teams here to Bordeaux to realize how their masterful work is in harmony with these great wines.

Gerda BEZIADE has an incredible passion for wine, and possesses a perfect knowledge of Bordeaux acquired within prestigious wine merchants for 25 years. Gerda joins Roland Coiffe & Associés in order to bring you, through “Inside La PLACE” more information about the estate we sell.