Grain de Sail from Brittany / Image Courtesy of Francois Le Naoures
The schooner Apollonia has become a part of business-as-usual for Nika Carlson, owner of Greenpoint Cidery, who makes farmhouse-style cider at her Hudson, New York facility. The bottles are loaded aboard the sailboat—about two weeks later, they arrive at the dock in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where locals can pick up a “boat box.”
Not two hours or two days. Two weeks, pending the unpredictable pace of the wind and the river tides. That’s just fine with Carlson.
“The way I make cider is slow; low intervention,” she explains. “This fits in with my business.” After all, she says, “people have been moving alcoholic beverages on the river for hundreds of years.”
From Brooklyn to Burgundy, a new “golden age of sail” has begun, shipping experts say: Specifically, sailing ships are transporting wine and other goods, whether down the Hudson River or on a trans-Atlantic journey. While it seems like a romantic step back in time, it’s more than just a throwback. Amid supply-chain woes and ever-expanding carbon footprints, some envision sail-freight as the future—a cleaner, greener way to ship cargo.
In New York, a pair of such routes intersect. The Apollonia, which debuted in 2020, sails along the Hudson from Albany down to New Jersey and New York City. And Grain de Sail, founded in 2010 in Brittany, carries French biodynamic wines via schooner to New York. Both have the goal of 99% carbon-neutral shipping. The global shipping industry creates 2.9% of total CO₂ emissions, according to a study by the International Maritime Organization (IMO)—as much as the entire continent of South America emits.
Other such vessels and routes include the Timbercoast (Germany, the Caribbean, Miami); Sail Med (Greece); and Nordlys (the Netherlands).
While these boats transport a wide range of nonperishable goods, from chocolate to olive oil, alcoholic beverages are often part of the freight. That’s not a coincidence, says Raphael Lyon, CEO, of Brooklyn’s Enlightenment Wines, which has used the Apollonia to ship mead. “Wine is heavy and it needs to stay cool,” Lyon notes. Stored in a cargo hold, liquids are naturally cooled by the water below, he explains.