Wine Importing and Marketing Services

Cargo Sailboats are a Wind-Powered Disruption to the Transatlantic Wine Trade

Loading cargo in Saint-Malo, France / Photo by Francois LeNaoures

Earlier this month, a 79-foot sailboat arrived in New York City, passing a landmark that has long heralded new beginnings: the Statue of Liberty. It had departed from the French port city of Saint-Malo 23 days earlier and was carrying 10,000 bottles of organic, biodynamic and natural French wines.

The boat, christened Grain de Sail, is one of a wave of cargo sailboats harnessing wind energy to decarbonize maritime transport.

“Our aluminum sailboat was purpose-built for the goal of exporting and importing across the Atlantic,” explains says Matthieu Riou, Grain de Sail’s U.S. wines and spirits director.

After unloading the wine in New York, the boat’s four-person crew will reload with 20 pallets of medical supplies to take to the Dominican Republic. The planned departure date is December 20. In the Dominican Republic, the crew will collect cocoa and coffee beans to take back to France.

This is the third sailing Grain de Sail has made since it launched in November 2020, and also its quickest, beating the previous record of 28 days set earlier this year.

Grain de Sail at sea / Photo courtesy Château Maris

Château Maris, the first European vineyard to achieve B Corporation certification, is one of the 15 vineyards in France that Riou works with on these voyages. All were selected according to shared sustainability values.

“We have been taking steps to reduce our carbon footprint since we converted to organic in 2002,” says Robert Eden, vintner and co-owner, Château Maris. “The Grain de Sail partnership was ideal for us because it completes the circle from production to transport.”

At present, the environmental impact of these sailings is a drop in the ocean. A conventional cargo ship can carry 38,000 tons of goods, while Grain de Sail has a maximum capacity of 50 tons. But there are encouraging signs that change is on the horizon. Over the next few years, several companies plan to launch wind transport products.

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