8000 bottles of wine shipped from Brest (France) to Knippelsbro (Knippel’s Bridge, Copenhagen) summer 2012 – a guest post from Sune Rosforth
Our wine company, Rosforth & Rosforth, was established in 1993 and sells wine commercially to restaurants. For the past 12 years, the company has been located under Knippelsbro (Knippel’s Bridge) in Christianshavn (Christian’s Harbour). Towards the end of June 2012, we were contacted by one of our wine growers, Olivier Cousin in Anjou, with an offer that we simply couldn’t refuse.
Olivier Cousin is the producer of over 25 cuvees of wine but, in a previous life, he was once a sailor and often talked about transporting wine on a river barge all the way to Copenhagen. The wine could be transported straight to our door, as our storeroom is right on the water. After the harvest of 2011, the grape-picking season finished, two of Olivier’s pickers went to Brest, hoping to make their way across the Atlantic. They succeed in securing spots on a good sailing ship – one without an engine, actually. She was called Tres Hombres and was headed to the Caribbean to pick up cocoa beans. The two pickers were delighted and told Olivier about it. He loved the story and went straight to Brest himself to deliver some wine, which the same ship could take to his importer in New York. Nine months later, the ship returned to Europe, but Olivier’s wine remained in the hull of the ship. It turned out that it was too expensive and administratively impossible to enter the harbour of New York.
The Tres Hombres had actually sailed back to Brest to participate in a renowned festival for sailing ships, held every four years. The captain of the ship took this opportunity to contact Olivier and ask him if there was anywhere else he could try delivering his wine to. Olivier immediately asked his importer in London, who turned down the idea. It was then that he called us. We said yes.
However, for the trip to make any sense for us, we needed 8000 bottles of wine brought over – and not just from Olivier, but from several wine producers, all of which would have to be collected and transported to Brest within just two weeks, before the ship would set sail for Copenhagen. We deal with a number of wine growers situated in the 1000 km plus long Loire Valley and we succeeded in collecting wine for this trip from thirteen of them.
Finally, early on the morning of 19 July at the harbour in Brest, the last pallets having been loaded by hand only a few hours before and each box tightly wedged, the hold was sealed with canvas and sleepers. On this most Westerly part of the Continent, the weather is often rainy. However, that day the sun came out from behind the clouds and the light sparkled on the waves. The wind rushing through the sails, the gentle creaking of the timber and the sound of waves breaking against them were like magical music. E very ship takes off at the same time, but the Tres Hombres was given first priority to sail and crossed the bay ahead of spectacular sailing ships the size of multi-story houses. It is the only ship that had raised its sails and was on its way to Copenhagen. It was an amazing sight.
The Tres Hombres is a 32 meter long schooner made of wood. It is double-masted and was built in 1943 by German boat-builders. She was originally built for fishing and transporting war material. Three idealistic friends from Holland had long been looking for a wooden ship large enough to freight large amounts of goods and found it in a decrepit state somewhere in Southern Holland. Having fallen completely in love with it, they bought it. After two years of pain-staking hand restoration, in 2009 the Tres Hombres was finally finished and the engine removed. In fact, it is illegal for a ship of this size not to have an engine if transporting passengers – except for in Sierra Leone. Hence, it is the flag of Sierra Leone that decorates the ship. One of its first trips was to the Climate Change summit in 2009 in Copenhagen, where it lay at anchor outside of Amalienborg (the royal castle), covered in snow. It was a tribute to alternative means of transport – ones that do not require the use of fossil fuels.
We are now in the middle of August 2012 and in telephone contact with the captain of the Tres Hombres. They are making their way through Kattegat and will soon be rounding Helsinor, which has heavy ferry traffic. We are doing everything we can to make people aware of its arrival, however the wind decreases in intensity and the ship has to drop anchor off Rungsted Kyst. Various port authorities and tugboat drivers, who are in charge of opening the bridge, call us incessantly, but the ship is stranded and can arrive only when the wind allows it to. Suddenly, we realise how dependent man is on nature – and not the other way around!
The next morning we see the Tres Hombres appear on the horizon by Charlottenlund Fort. We are taken to the ship and helped on board by a smiling, merry crew. The sun is shining and the sky is clear blue. It is truly summer and absolutely magical to be onboard this ship. The wine must feel the same way. Like this, the energy from the growers’ hard work in the vineyards and the cellars are kept intact.
Altogether, we sail past the Little Mermaid all the way to Amaliehaven. From here the tugboats drag us under Knippelsbro to the quay. The sterile office buildings are of great contrast to the vivid ship and all its cordage. The wine is unloaded and each of the boxes are opened so that we can label every single one of the 8083 bottles with guarantee marks containing a tracking code. All those bottles made 13 pallets of wine. The atmosphere was euphoric and the wine that was stored lower down in the hull was still cool enough to drink and had a divine taste.
Once unpacked, we went on to make a special delivery with the Tres Hombres. Restaurant noma had ordered 300 bottles and, since it is only a few hundred meters away from our wine cellar, we drag the ship by the cordage to the canal in front of the restaurant. We felt like explorers who had made their way up the Amazon. Little by little, we see the natives emerging from the densely grown jungle. They look at us with great curiosity. Their garments are all alike and look unmistakably like chefs’ aprons. We remained wary, but suddenly one of the chefs approached with a tray of familiar foods. They tasted great. In return, we showed them our precious cargo and opened a bottle. They drank from it and smiled. It is obvious that these natives sensed how full of life the wine was. This wine that they tasted had been across the Atlantic and back. We danced all night. The very next morning, the Tres Hombres had already continued its journey onwards. No words could describe the pain in our hearts. Nonetheless, we were left enriched and delighted.
See you again!