I’m always on the lookout for interesting and unusual wine tchotchkes. My latest acquisition is this vintage fruit crate label from 1950. I love it when wine and history get all tangled up with each other!
Where is Vinland and what the heck are the Vikings doing there? Well, you won’t find Vinland on your GPS . . .
When the Vikings arrived in North America (almost assuredly Newfoundland), they found a land teeming with wild native grapes. They called the land Vinland, which means “Wine Land” in Old Norse.
This is a painting by Norwegian artist, Christian Krohg, 1893. It’s called Leif Eriksson Discovers America. And while that’s a fine title for a work of art, I’m giving it a subtitle: “Hey look . . . grapes!”
Fast forward 1,000 years . . . well, they thought they were grapes. More likely, Eriksson and his Viking friends found a land teeming with wild native cranberries. Historians are still arguing about whether grapes could have grown in Newfoundland around 1000 AD . . . a debate which should provide cocktail party fodder for at least another decade.
It’s interesting because . . . I did a quick search and found out there are a handful of wineries (three) in Newfoundland today. And the wine list at these wineries reads like a Who’s Who in Berryland: Cranberry Wine, Raspberry Wine, Blueberry Wine, Gooseberry Wine, Cloudberry Wine, Partridgeberry Wine, Currant Wine (incidentally, the currant is a member of the Gooseberry family), and Rhubarb Wine (a second-cousin once removed to the strawberry). But no Grape Wine!
Because I know you’re curious (I know I was), here’s a Cloudberry. I guess it looks like a cloud. Kind of.
And the Partridge berry, which doesn’t look at all like a partridge . . .
If I’m ever in Newfoundland (it’s on my bucket list), I won’t leave without trying Cloudberry and Partridgeberry wines.
Circling back to Vinland . . . I’ve thrown my lot in with the terroir purists, so my money is on Viking cranberries, not grapes. But I suspect history isn’t finished with this debate just yet.