French vineyards to deliver wine by 19th Century sailing ship

(Image – Fondation Belem )

In a bid to cut carbon emissions, French vineyard owners have announced their intention to export their wine by sail. 60, 000 bottles of wine were shipped from Languedoc to Ireland last August in the three-masted barqueBelem, launched in 1896, and further chartered voyages in the ship are planned.

Saving an estimated 18,375lb of carbon, each trip to Dublin is expected to last around four days. Further voyages to Bristol, Manchester and even Canada are planned soon afterwards. Speaking to the Observer newspaper, Frederic Albert, founder of the shipping company Compagnie de Transport Maritime à la Voile (CTMV), said that delivery times to Ireland and Britain had been calculated using historic charts. ‘We had someone who studied a century of weather conditions to work them out,’ he said.

The wines will be delivered to Bordeaux by barge using the Canal du Midi and Canal du Garonne, which run across southern France from Sète in the east, via Béziers in Languedoc. Each bottle will be labelled: ‘Carried by sailing ship, a better deal for the planet.’ Although the whole process will end up taking up to a week longer than a flight, it is estimated it will save 4.9oz of carbon per bottle.

With French wine exports booming following a number of difficult years, Albert said some 250 producers in Languedoc alone were keen to use his ships.

The 170ft Belem, which was first used to transport cocoa and sugar from South America and the West Indies and is named after a Brazilian port, will be joined by a fleet of seven modern sailing ships planned to be working by 2013, with the first expected to be launched in October this year.

The planned design of the fleet of seven modern sailing merchant ships.

Seven private investors have contributed 70 per cent of the business’s start-up costs of £40m. Bank loans have provided the rest.

‘There is a lot of interest in green investments in France,’ said Albert. Ships will return to France with an equivalent tonnage of crushed glass for recycling into wine bottles at factories in Bordeaux and Béziers. Despite the time involved in transporting it, the wine should also remain relatively cheap, at between ?7 and ?20 a bottle.