The story of the barque Belem is filled with romance. Today it is being put to use as a working cargo ship to deliver sustainably produced wines from France. Built in 1896, and named for the Brazilian seaport at the mouth of the Amazon, the Belem originally shipped chocolate in its hold from Brazil to France. At 170ft its first shipment of wine from Languedoc France to Dublin this February carried 60,000 bottles of fine wine saving an estimated 140 grams of carbon per bottle. On each of the bottles is a stylized sticker reading "Carried by sailing ship, a better deal for the planet."
Currently there are green investment incentives popping up in France as they are here in the US. Frederic Albert is the man behind the restoration of the Belem and the shipping firm Compagnie de Transport Maritime a la Voile, CTMV. Currently the company plans to use more sailing cargo vessels in their operations, up to seven are planned for use by 2013. The Belem was the last French made sailing cargo ship to be built at the turn of the century. The three masted barque is capable of about 12-15 knots in hard wind or around 17mph.
Frederic Albert had a winemaking grandfather and a sailor grandfather, he has melded the two stating, "My idea at the beginning was to do something for the planet and something for the wines of Languedoc." The concept is beautiful, simple, effective, and reduces carbon emissions. The wines are still sold at a competitive price but the value to know they were shipped by wind power is truly special.