A cargo ship delivers wine by the wind from France to Brooklyn • Brooklyn Paper


A cargo ship docked in Brooklyn Bridge Park on May 13, bringing thousands of bottles of wine from France to Brooklyn using wind power.

French-based Grain de Sail’s schooner docked at One°15 Brooklyn Marina after a 27-day voyage across the Atlantic Ocean last Thursday, delivering some 8,000 bottles of eco-friendly goodness, according to a representative of the European Solidifier.

“Big cargo ships are big polluters,” Grain de Sail’s U.S. director of wines and spirits, Matthieu Riou, told the Brooklyn Paper. “That’s one of the ways we want to say it’s possible to do it in another way, in a cleaner way, using only the wind which is a free resource.”

Cargo sailboat from Grain de Sail.veil grain

The ship will remain docked in Brooklyn’s front yard for about 12 days, before heading to the Caribbean to pick up cocoa and coffee to ship to France where the company makes chocolate.

The custom-designed 72-foot watercraft has a large temperature-controlled hull capable of carrying approximately 18,000 bottles of wine or 40 metric tons of cocoa.

“We like to call it a floating cave,” Riou said. “The goal is [for the temperature] to stay stable. This is the most important point, to avoid big differences that could alter the wine or the cocoa.

The boat draws its juice from on-board equipment through solar, wind and water power, and only uses an engine when docked, due to maritime regulations.

Solar panels and a wind turbine help power the boat.Photo by Kevin Duggan

The Breton company behind the company initially sought to sail around the world to import cocoa from the Dominican Republic in a more sustainable way than diesel-guzzling container ships, but then decided to load the boat with wine on its way so it wouldn’t make the transatlantic journey empty, according to Riou.

They offer 25 different types of wine from all over France, which will be sold at neighboring restaurant Estuary, Clinton Hill’s Corskrew Wines and French restaurant OCabanon in Manhattan. Prices range from $25 to $40 a bottle, but champagnes are around $150 a bottle.

The unconventional shipping method doesn’t give the wines a particular salty taste, but Riou said that in addition to eliminating the need for fossil fuels, the majority of their products are also completely new to the US market.

“Most of the winemakers we bring to New York didn’t want to export wine at first because they didn’t want to do it with a big cargo ship,” he said. “So all of the wines we bring to New York are new, they’ll be in New York for the first time, and they’re from winemakers that wouldn’t be available if they weren’t shipped by sail.”

This is Grain de Sail’s second trip to the Kings County shores and one of the four crew said the sailing went smoothly.

“It was pretty cool this time, the weather conditions were pretty cool,” sailor Francois Le Naoures told the newspaper. “During the trip, we fished, we cooked.”

Grain de Sail’s maiden voyage in November was more difficult, according to Le Naoures, with the sailors battling 30-foot waves on the high seas and a snowstorm when they arrived at the Brooklyn Navy Yard four weeks later.

The French plan to build a second cargo sailboat twice as big by 2023 and make the roughly three-month round trip twice a year, once in the spring and another in the fall.

“The goal is to build a fleet of boats,” Riou said.


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