Sail No Wine Before It’s Time

August 14, 2008 at 9:06 am 1 comment

While many companies are looking for new ways of reducing their environmental impact, wine makers in Europe are employing a method of shipping that has been around for centuries. Rather than seeking the fastest, most efficient means to get their product from point A to point B, several wine makers have begun using ‘slow freight. In other words, they get their port from port to port by shipping their shipment by ship. <accent=French> Simple, no? </accent>

A company called Tesco made a splash last autumn when it started to transport wine by barge along the Manchester ship canal. Last month a French company one-upped the Brits by taking the concept of ‘slow freight’ one step further, using a ship built in 1900 to carry a cargo of Languedoc’s finest to Ireland. With a cargo consisting of 21,000 bottles (23 tons) of France’s finest, the “Kathleen & May” successfully made a week-long crossing from Brest [France], dropping anchor in Dublin [Ireland] on July 25th, marking the first (legal) commercial cargo to be transported by a sail powered boat in nearly 100 years.

The “Kathleen & May” 1 of 5 vessels owned by the Compagnie de Transport Maritime à la Voile (CTMV), a freight business which ships cargo solely by sailing boat. CTMV estimates the carbon dioxide emissions to be seven times less than a container ship plying the same route. Although the CTMV ships travel only using sail power, the company’s five vessels aren’t completely emissions-free because of the requirement of on-board generators to power navigational instruments and use of diesel engines to maneuver the boat into port or down rivers. However, the company is currently working to reduce their emmissions by a factor of 10 using designs for a new ship based on traditional models.

The biggest drawback to shipping via a sail-powered vessel is that the journey can take up to twice as long as it would by conventional vessel. Though most would consider this to put CTMV at a commercial disadvantage, founder Frédéric Albert explains that his contract with importers recognizes that the voyage varies from four to eight days depending on winds. An additional benefit is that wine sellers can display the ‘Carried by sailing ship’ label on bottles, an idea which some consumers seem to be keen on.

Albert also sees his enterprise as playing an educational role, too.

“Consumers today don’t know how long things really need – how long wine takes to mature; how long an apple takes to grow. [Slow freight] is a pedagogic thing. If the ship’s late, it’s because it’s working with nature.”

He adds that there are added benefits of sending the bottles by boat, too – the rolling of the waves is said to improve the flavor of the wine.

Editor: I think Yvon Chouinard would approve. I wonder how long (if ever) it will take FedEx to try and capitalize on this idea?

By briansrapier

[via Green Futures]


Entry filed under: Emerging Technologies, Energy, Environment, Informational, Starting a Business. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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