Vinland, Ho!

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!

eriksson america
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.

medium_192930279Photo Credit

And the Partridge berry, which doesn’t look at all like a partridge . . .

medium_200319856Photo Credit

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.



  1. Hey–sommelier living in Newfoundland here.

    Newfoundland has never had a growing season long enough for European grape varieties. We also often suffer from erratic early frosts. What’s more, the European grape varieties (vitis vinifera) had to be introduced to North America with European settlement and struggled initially as they had to discover microclimates and soil types to work with each grape i.e. it took hundred of grapes in the ground in Oregon, let’s say, before they realized which ones worked and what kinds of sites.

    It was more likely that these grapes they discovered in L’anseau Meadows were blueberries as I have been there and the land still supports blueberries. Cranberries, cloudberries, and partridgeberries are all marsh and bog berries whereas blueberries grow in wild patches that could almost be mistaken for goblet trained vines.

    Anyway, another possibility is that they -were- grapes. Lambrusca and Concord grapes do grow here with little to no effort. Not the best for wine but what does a Viking care?

    Currently they are experimenting with 52 different European grape varietals in Newfoundland soil. However it is inland where the heat seems to distribute more evenly, and with the caring, trained hand of a horticultarist and her husband who worked in wine for his life. It will be the third year upcoming and therefore the grapes will then be ripe enough to be picked! Wish us luck!


    1. Hey Scott! Thanks so much for stopping by . . . and for the first-hand Newfoundland wine knowledge. I will be very interested to hear how the European grape experiment progresses . . . keep me in the loop! Salud!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s