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French cargo yacht carrying 8,000 bottles of wine sets sail for New York

Twins Jacques and Olivier Barreau built the 80 foot Grain de Sail for around $1.5 million as part of their drive to make trans-Atlantic shipping more environmentally sustainable.

Though there is a small outboard motor (legally required for docking in American ports), the three-week journey from Saint-Malo in Brittany to Brooklyn Bridge Park’s One15 Marina has so far been entirely under wind power. The ship is expected to arrive in five days. Made of aluminium, for lightness and strength, it is capable of carrying 18,000 bottles of wine in the hold, though is only carrying 8,000 on this voyage.

Grain de Sail’s US wines and spirits director Matthieu Riou described transporting wine in a sail ship as an example of “thinking holistically…[providing] sustainable shipping for sustainably produced products from far away in an eco-responsible manner”. The company website describes it as “retro-innovating”.

Among the bottles being transported on this voyage to the US are Grain de Sail-branded wines from Burgundy, Charles Heidsieck champagne. There is a strong focus on biodynamic French wines, to continue the sustainability theme. However, the ship’s maiden voyage in 2020 was with an entirely different cargo in the hold – cacao and coffee from Central and South America.

Though chocolate is also being transported on this voyage, wine has become the focus of the enterprise. In addition to a wine team, Grain de Sail also partners with several winemakers from Alsace, the Loire, the Rhône, Burgundy, Champagne and the South West.

Relying on the wind rather than petrol does increase costs as it lengthens the time taken to cross from France to America. Jacques Barreau remarked: “If we were able to have a cargo sailboat the size of a conventional cargo ship, the cost would be approximately the same”. However, despite this, the company’s revenue is set to more than double from $8 million in 2021 to a projected $17 million in 2023.

The wines will be available for tasting at the One15 Marina’s Estuary restaurant and Jacques Barreau will be making the most of the journey by speaking at Brooklyn Green Drinks later this month.

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