If you have been reading this blog recently you will probably have seen my piece on Vanessa Letort and her “Du Vin aux Liens” project, and the wine journey that flowed from my discovery of this wine collective and all the different projects and characters emanating from it. You will also have gathered that Vanessa’s UK agent/importer is a company called Sevslo Wine, based in Glasgow. Last week I made what was my first ever trip to that city to meet up with Sevslo founder, Séverine Sloboda and her business partner, Liam Hanlon, at Sevslo’s sister-company, the wine shop “Made From Grapes”.
Made From Grapes is situated in Glasgow’s South Side, on Nithsdale Road. For someone not knowing the city, and who decided to walk from the centre (about 45 minutes), the journey was an interesting one. Half an hour after crossing the Clyde I had traversed a wilderness of shuttered shops, social housing, and derelict industrial buildings, save for a few interesting restaurants (I spotted Afghan, Persian and “Middle Eastern”) and global food stores. I probably saw half-a-dozen people on the street. Passing under a flyover for the M8 Motorway I eventually reached Nithsdale Road, and found myself in a very affluent area, akin to West London’s smarter neighbourhoods, with cafés spilling onto the street, delis and Made From Grapes. The contrast made me blink.
I have to tell you, inside, the shop is a delight to anyone seriously interested in natural wine. I was like a child in a sweet shop. But first, let’s step back a bit.
Séverine Sloboda’s family were originally from the former Czechoslovakia, but moved to Paris, where as a child she was surrounded by wine and the wine trade. Her mother, at the time Séverine was around ten years old, became the first woman to manage one of the shops in France’s large Nicolas wine chain.
After working in, and managing, Parisian wine shops, Séverine moved to the UK in 2004, working as a sommelier at the Criterion and The Bleeding Heart, before being there for the opening of Michelin-starred Trinity Restaurant in Clapham in 2006. Her sommelier experience took her to Scotland, back to London (she did a stint as Head Sommelier at Angelus) and then up to Scotland again where, in late 2019 she founded Sevslo Wine.
Despite the Covid pandemic, Séverine and co-director Liam Hanlon managed to open Made from Grapes about a year after Sevslo was up and running, in late 2020. Possibly not the best time to start a business you might think, yet their ability to open their doors to customers, as an “essential service”, soon had locals flocking in because they were pretty much the only shop open in the neighbourhood.
Like all good independent wine shops, they have focused on cultivating a loyal local clientele with tastings, whilst at the same time they have created an online shop, and having gained a full Licence can now add in popups for local restaurants etc. They are about to transform into a “bar à vin” with snacks (cheese, charcuterie, maybe croque monsieur, says Séverine) with corkage or wines by the glass to drink in. The shop is spacious enough to hold events, is nice and light and has a great vibe already.
I had been drawn to Sevslo, the importer, by a raft of interesting producers, some (like Sons of Wine) I had heard of before but whose wines I had never tried. First, we have the Alsace producers mentioned in the article on Du Vin aux Liens, along with the Loire winemakers Vanessa works with and those who collaborate with Vanessa’s partner, Farid Yahimi (Sons of Wine).
They also import the wines from near Toul in Lorraine, Eastern France, made by Vanessa and Farid’s friends at Maison Crochet (Wilfried Crochet). But these are just the tip of the iceberg. I became aware that Sevslo also imports the wines of Jan-Philipp Bleeke, who has previously worked with Jan-Matthias Klein (Staffelter Hof, Kröv), whose wines I am a big fan of, through importer Modal Wines. They also have wines in store from the young Mosel micro-negociant Jas Swan, who also worked at the Staffelter Hof with JMK.
Jan-Philipp Bleeke Red Aquarius – Dornfelder with Regent, Mosel
Sevslo seems to be a company with a finger on the pulse when it comes to finding relatively unknown names in natural wine, although I use the phrase with a big caveat. Vanessa Letort wasn’t a name even I knew before this year, but as I mentioned in my article about her, her “Du Vin aux Liens” are already imported into a raft of countries and regions, including Scandinavia, North America, South Korea and Japan. The Japanese, especially, seem to sniff out a good natural wine producer in a way that the UK once had a reputation for, pre-Brexit.
However, Made from Grapes is not beholden only to Sevslo for the wines on the shelves. Liam told me that they purchase from at least fifteen different UK importers and agents, and this is the key to making this shop probably the best natural wine store I’ve seen in the UK. I’m tempted not even to add “outside of London”. There seem to be almost no compromises, or very few, in pursuing what is undoubtedly the dream here, to own a wine shop that stocks what the owners like to drink themselves. It’s something of a pleasant surprise to discover that their tastes pretty much match mine.
Marnes Blanches, Labet, Tournelle and Vin Jaune from Fumey-Chatelain top off the Jura selection; Claus Preisinger, Rennersistas and Judith Beck shout out for Burgenland; a good selection from Jean-Pierre Rietsch crowns the Alsace cohort, which also includes Catherine Riss and Geschickt, whilst Germany has the likes of Wassenhaus and Enderle & Moll. Bordeaux is represented by Château Le Puy, Italy by Foradori, Spain by Partida Creus. There are even a few wines from Basket Press Wines, such as Annamária Réka-Koncz (Hungary) and Magula (Slovakia). I also spotted some Slobodne from Slovakia, imported by Modal Wines.
Some of the importers with wines on the shelves include Les Caves de Pyrene, Winemakers Club, Newcomer Wines, Otros Vinos (especially nice to see here) and Dynamic Vines, to name only a few alongside already mentioned Modal and Basket Press. A good selection of sparkling wines starts with Champagne from Bérêche and Laherte, alongside several Crémants (sadly they had sold out of JPR’s Crémant d’Alsace, but it is usually listed), and they stock a healthy number of pétnats as well (which are very popular, Liam says).
Liam and Séverine
Made from Grapes (166 Nithsdale Road, Glasgow) is open Tuesday to Sunday, closed Mondays (check times on web site as they open late, at 12.00 some days). They do Mail Order like anyone else, but if you are in Glasgow it is well worth the trek out there in person. Especially if, like me, you are an inveterate browser. It would be easy to point to this store as a potential source for wines which might be sold out in London, except that would just be patronising. A scroll through the wines on the shop’s web site will show several sold out, as illustrated by their savvy customers hoovering up all the Jean-Pierre Rietsch Crémant d’Alsace which I so badly needed. I will say though (shhh!) that the Labet prices (as indeed all the prices) looked relatively generous compared to some sources outside the region. Don’t expect them to sell you the whole lot though.
Sevslo Wine can be contacted through their web site to supply their small artisan growers to the on-trade and to cutting edge indie wine shops ( sevslowine.com ). You can read all the bio/profiles of their own growers there. Sevslo definitely doesn’t just distribute in Scotland. They are increasingly doing business in England, so you can all get your hands on these new wines if your local wine shop checks them out. Made from Grapes of course will deliver throughout the UK.
One final observation…Séverine Sloboda is a great example of a woman in the wine trade who, obviously through hard work and determination, has become successful. Perhaps it was fitting that my visit to Glasgow coincided with International Women’s Day. Meeting Séverine and Liam was a pleasure, as was browsing the wines in the Glasgow sunshine.