Vineland Was Full Of Grapes

This is just one of dozens of responses to common climate change denial arguments, which can all be found at How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic.


Newfoundland was so warm in the Medieval Warm Period that when the Vikings landed they called it Vineland and brought boatloads of grapes back to Europe.


One can not infer a global climate from an anecdote about a single region, or even a few regions, you need detailed analysis of proxy climate indicators from around the world. These proxy reconstructions have shown that the Medieval Warm Period (around the time the Vikings were said to have discovered North America) was in fact not as warm or pronounced as today's warmth. From NOAA's paleoclimate website we can read these quotes:

What records that do exist show that there was no multi-century periods when global or hemispheric temperatures were the same or warmer than in the 20th century....

...In summary, it appears that the 20th century, and in particular the late 20th century, is likely the warmest the Earth has seen in at least 1200 years.

As for the specific anecdote that Vineland was a warm land where grapes grew wild, like in the Greenland story, Vineland's name was most likely a kind of marketing ploy. Doing a bit of googling I came across this article by Robert McGhee for Canadian Geographic, from 1988 that had this interesting thing to say:

There has been much argument over the location of Vinland, with scholars and local enthusiasts placing it anywhere between Labrador and Florida, and even in the Great Lakes or the Mississippi Valley. The geographical descriptions in the Norse sagas are too vague to allow certain placement on a modern map, but there is growing consensus that they best fit Newfoundland and Labrador (formerly Newfoundland). The main problem with a Newfoundland and Labrador (formerly Newfoundland) site is the absence of wild grapes. Still, there is a strong suspicion that what Leif found were only berries, and that he followed the practice of his father in "giving a land a good name so that men would want to go there".

(I got to that article from this page with a lot of good resources on the Viking expansion)

So, grapes growing in Newfoundland: paleoclimate's Smoking Gun, or medieval marketing ploy? You decide.

This is just one of dozens of responses to common climate change denial arguments, which can all be found at How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic.

"Vineland Was Full Of Grapes" was first published here, where you can still find the original comment thread. This updated version is also posted on the Grist website, where additional comments can be found, though the author, Coby Beck, does not monitor or respond there.

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Actually, the old norse "Vin" can be interpreted in two ways. The modern use of the word means "wine", but as seen in old Norwegian place names it also can mean "plain" (e.g. Granvin, Bjørgvin). A likely explanation is that the vikings named the continent "Vinland" because the landscape at their landing site was open and flat.

Two things about this fact.

1) Wine was made from ANYTHING that sprouted back around the 1000s, not necessarily grapes.

2) If the climate was warmer then, warm enough to grow grapes in the arctic, then water levels would have been higher. Not only by the fact that the arctic regions were coming out of depression after the Ice Age (these areas still rise measurably), but also from the iceless glaciers.
And yes, one can see these waterlines having carved timelines in rock in for instance Sweden.

Now, if we went back to those waterlines, that would NOT be a good thing (even minus the ice age land depression), whether it is a cyclical thing or man made, not a good thing.

Then tell my why the street names of the oldest parts of London are all vine related? Because the romans used to grew up their vine grapes in Londinium 2000 years ago at their side?

There are several diaries from southern germany monks traveling from Freybourg to Rome over the Alps. These diaries are up to 1200 years old an describe in detail the travels. Some of the oldest diaries does not even show the word "snow" or "ice" in the diaries. Why? Because there was no snow in the Alps at that timespan!?

In the English channel there are fossils of creatures from the savannah Rhinos elephant and Hippos etc........

So not only was that part of the world much warmer but also lower ergo............the earth cooled and the sea rose?

By cooperman (not verified) on 04 Dec 2009 #permalink

Hans writes: These diaries are up to 1200 years old an describe in detail the travels. Some of the oldest diaries does not even show the word "snow" or "ice" in the diaries. Why? Because there was no snow in the Alps at that timespan!?

Have you ever heard of 'Otzi' the iceman? Most people have. He has been confidently dated to 3300BC and was frozen in the Alps from then to 1991AD. Very strong and hard to dispute evidence that there was snow and ice at least in some regions of the Alps.

What else do the diaries not mention? Intuitively this list is likely longer than what is mentioned. Absence of reference is not the same as physical absence of the item. Clearly, critical thinking is necessary in interpreting data. Otherwise you end up with faith based conclusions.

By George Kapotto (not verified) on 22 Dec 2009 #permalink

Hans (and others)
Grapes may have grown in Greenland or the northen Atlantic region in the eleventh century. Possible, but unlikely. But so what?
Meanwhile, in New Zealand (you may have heard of it - its in the southern hemisphere), the region was experiencing unusually cold temperatures and increased glaciation.

I'm going to suggest therefore, that the concept of a global 'warm period' in medieval times can be discounted.

I second mandas' remark.

AGW deniers are able to imagine holes in climate data where there are none. Yet the uncorrelated words of a 12th century monk and the marketing exploits of some viking explorers are to be viewed as a precisely documented proof of temperatures 1000 years ago.

How about a better idea? Why not go to the geologic record, ice core samples, carbon isotope ratios and other unbiased sources of information. Oh wait, I think I know why. Could it be because those records don't substantiate the anti-AGW position?

By George Kapotto (not verified) on 24 Dec 2009 #permalink

red pepper,

which evidence?


why don't you go to the alps right now. Of course by walking, not using a car. Just like your monks, you don't have modern gloves, maybe some pieces of fur or cloth to wrap your hands in.

You will further find, that writing gets difficult, either are your fingers frozen, or the cloth/fur is in the way.

Then you go down to Italy. It is getting warmer, somewhere south of Bolzano you can start writing. You now what? Nobody wants to read your snow stories, except some skiing fanatics, which haven't existed at that time anyway.

Snow is too ubiquitous to be interesting. Like rain, or faeces.

Better describe wine, nice churches, whatever you like, but not snow.

So you may write down many other things.

Hans, what if you replace your far-fetched arguments with true evidence?

BTW: Freybourg is Switzerland, not Germany.

Your thesis that we are talking about global trends rather than regional trends fails to address the fact that if it was indeed warmer today than in Medieval times, there is no reason we would not have seen at least some of the same regional climate patterns repeating themselves. After all, the movement of continents and the rise and fall of mountains is insignificant over such insignificantly short periods of time.

If grapes were grown in Newfoundland (and other parts of northern Europe) during the Medieval, how is it that it is not warm enough today to grow the same varieties in at least some of the same locations?

Is it not a simpler explanation if we conclude that it is cooler today than in the Medieval because Medieval regional temperature anomalies have, to date, not been repeated?

Timothy Casey
Consulting Geologist

"If grapes were grown in Newfoundland (and other parts of northern Europe) during the Medieval, how is it that it is not warm enough today to grow the same varieties in at least some of the same locations?"

It is. My neighbour as a child in South West England had a grapevine in the 1980s that did very well. I think this quote may be illuminating too:

âBy means of glasses, hotbeds, and hotwalls, very good
grapes can be raised in Scotlandâ
Adam Smith (1776) The Wealth of Nations.

Commercial vineyards may still struggle nowadays (though, increasingly less so), but then we are talking about a completely different scale of agriculture nowadays as compared to the middle ages. Growing grapes on a small, labour-intensive scale in the middle ages was commercially viable for many reasons (smaller populations, lack of transport links, lack of mechanisation) that differ from today.


Chris S.
Agricultural Entomologist

I've just noticed I failed to add the remainder of the Adam Smith quote above, so here it is in full:

âBy means of glasses, hotbeds, and hotwalls, very good
grapes can be raised in Scotland, and very good wine too
can be made of them at about thirty times the expense for
which at least equally good can be brought from foreign
countries. â¦As long as the one country has those
advantages, and the other wants them, it will always be
more advantageous for the latter, rather to buy of the
former than to make.â
Adam Smith (1776)

Thus, for the small-scale economies of the MWP it may well have been econoically feasible to grow grapes in northern areas where in today's world it is not due to economy of scale (more advantageous for the latter, rather to buy of the former than to make).

The evidence is that Vikings planted vines, right? From what I have read, there's no evidence the vines actually produced. The project/settlement were a bust. Regardless of localized climatic variation, the latitude was too extreme for that longitude. Heck, you can plant vines anywhere; it means nothing.

Couldn't work out the best place to put this - but this was as close as I could work out!

An disturbing study just published:…

The implications for this are massive and extremely concerning. Ecosystem changes like this will lead to massive cascading effects throughout the trophic levels, and could lead to the collapse of the food chain.

It is effects such as this which are the things we really need to worry about regarding climate change - not whether or not our insurance premiums increase or whether coastal properties will become worthless.

When idiots make moronic statements about how a warmer world will be better etc, it just proves how little they understand. A warmer world will NOT be better. Our whole ecosystem - and our whole society and way of life - is adapted for the climate exactly as it is right now. You change that - and the consequences will be far reaching, costly and devastating to everything we know and rely on for our survival.

mandas, yes I saw this.

Not quite the same plummeting feeling in the pit of the stomach as last year's bombshell about the loss of 40% of global phytoplankton, but unpretty. Very discouraging.

Without doubt this site has some of the most inane logic I have ever seen. The initial response and the comments of most ( not all ) are more indicative of a church picnic than of scientific reasoning. Don't like contrary evidence? - bring on the inquisition! Better yet, lets calls them "deniers" so that we can single them out and ostracise them! (See Edward Bernays if you doubt the method.) There's no doubt that climate changes over time, but our role in it is grossly exaggerated. I lay it at the feet of a schooling system that fails to fail, and that teaches self importance as an end in itself.

There's not a single pro response here, particularly the initial one, that I couldn't blow holes in in five minutes. None of us are that important folks, we're simply another set of evolving bacteria that has already outgrown it's usefulness through overbreeding and neurosis. Calm down and enjoy life while you still have it.

Ahhh, another denier.

Or.... are you going to show us some of this 'contrary evidence' that you will "blow holes in in five minutes"? So go on then. Blow away!

bruce, you are right, and all climate realism denalists have no clue why they are so arrogant about their not existing knowledge and lacking intelligence

problem with you kai is that you're a tiny boy hiding behind anonymity.

Or, in other words, a whiny little arselick.

wow has a severe character damage problem to accept how mean and shallow his brain works

kai you're a tosspot.

Given the lack of vines in Iceland, where the hell did the Vikings get their grapes from?

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 01 Jan 2013 #permalink

wow, if i would suffer from the same mental deficiencies as you, i would immediately and constantly pray to god for help

If you suffered from the same mental deficiencies as me, you'd be 1000x smarter and a normal human being.

However, being smart to an idiot like you seems like some mutant power, doesn't it.

Bruce said:

There’s not a single pro response here, particularly the initial one, that I couldn’t blow holes in in five minutes.

Select one and show us how you do it.

we’re simply another set of evolving bacteria

You realize that bacteria destroyed their own environment by producing toxic oxygen, do you?

By Richard Simons (not verified) on 01 Jan 2013 #permalink

Grapes are grapes, the first place they could have been growing in those days, Cape Cod. As more ice melted the constant tidal changes removed all traces of the Cape Cod settlement, which were probably not made of stone and a half mile off shore of present day. Was there only one settlement? Was the northern stone foundation a jumping off to further southern exploration and grapes?

By Skraeling (not verified) on 28 Jun 2013 #permalink

Newsflash! Grape do indeed grow in colder climates. Grapes are common in Quebec. Given the Gulf Stream effect in moderating the temperatures of the coastline of New England, it is not out of theoretical question to suppose that the Labrador current could have been lessened while the Gulf Stream effect strengthened, and that Newfoundland and the Maritime provinces would have been even more hospitable to grapes. Grapes even grow in the Alps in Graubenden.

By ElvisMoab (not verified) on 02 Jan 2014 #permalink

Elvis, where in Graubuenden did you find grapes? I cannot believe that grapes grow at high altitudes in cold climate.

Grapes are growing further north than ever before in recorded history: DESPITE there being ample imports from warmer climes AND a much lowered religious requirement for it, AND ALSO much cleaner water not requiring some antibacterial alcohol in "drinking water".


Graubuenden is part of Switzerland and not of Finland!

wow, nonsense, advancements in winery is due to agricultural innovations and professional skills of winemakers, and has nothing to do with religions, among them global warming

"....Graubuenden is part of Switzerland and not of Finland!..."

Gee, really dickhead? It must be colder then, since Finland is such a hot country and, as you say, grapes could never grow somewhere that is so cold..

Maybe kaibot's getting Finland and Denmark mixed up, because it was wibbling on about "or that high" too.

"wow, nonsense"

Wow. Nonsense? From kaibot? Surely not!

"advancements in winery is due to agricultural innovations and professional skills of winemakers"

Funny, you don't have any citation for this, and this is also not the explanation you accept for the greater acrigultural production, demanding that it is because "CO2 is a plant food!".

wow, you as typical copy paste alarmist appears to have no genuine thinking, knowledge and judgement. In contrast to you, I don't need a "reference" on what I taught you, as I am myself an owner of a huge winery and know from own experience about what I am talking. So listen to my words, you layperson, and try to learn.

Nope, no copy paste from me kaibot.

Imagination is the only place you read this blog, innit, kid.

So what if you own a vinyard?

I have a professorship in wineology.

idunno, arguing with wow is a waste of time as he only is a constant mock troll without substiantial background in any respect, but full of hatred against climate realists

I do know, idunno. I've told you: I have a professorship in wineology! Therefore I know much more than kaibot, who merely owns a vinyard.

Note how kaibot didn't even bother to consider what you said, idunno. It never matters to kaibot, reality never does what it prefers, so it ignores reality and makes up a walter mitty world that works just perfectly.

But denierbots like kaibot have nothing to support them in reality, only their ideology, entirely a creation of their internal fantasy on reality, drives them.

The first poster touches upon the confusion that the use of the word "vin" has introduced, when it comes to the land discovered by Leif Erikson.

The Norwegian explorer Helge Ingstad was always very skeptical of the "vines and grapes" interpretation, which had people looking for Erikson's settlement far south.

If one goes by the sagas where Erikson's journey and settlement efforts are chronicled, one sees that the Viking custom of naming places for prominent features was followed. Erikson retraced an involuntary discovery of land to the west made Bjarni Herjolfsson, whose ship was blown off course, and who reached land to the west of Greenland, which Herjolfsson sailed along, without making landfall. Erikson bought Herjolfsson's longship, and made the journey to the west, counterclockwise to how Herjolfsson sailed.

Erikson first came to a place he chose to name Helluland, because of its prominence of flat rocks (hellur). Sailing south, they came upon dense forests, which they named Markland.

Subsequently, they made it to a place Erikson named Vinland. In old Norse, vin can mean open and favorable plains, as in the names mentioned by the first poster, and as found in the placename of Vingrom (located outside Lillehammer).

The Greenlanders struggled to feed their livestock, because of conditions on Greenland, and the grazing conditions at Leifbudr, where Erikson created a settlement, were far superior, and attracted others.
Going by this description, as well as features mentioned in the sagas, Helge Ingstad found Erikson's settlement, at L'Anse Aux Meadows. Where meadows does not denote what one would immediately think of, but the fact that there are lots of jellyfish in this locality. It is indisputable that a Viking settlement of some duration took place there, and that they had cattle. What caused the abandonment is not known, but the sagas do mention confrontations with the indigenous population. (Skrælinger, as th Vikings called them.)

In later recountings, Vinland became a land of wine and plenty, instead of the grazing lands the Vikings of Greenland sought and found.

As to "bringing boatloads of grapes back to Europe with them."

It is highly unlikely that it was vines and grapes Erikson found, but rather it was grazing land. More to the point, it is not likely that a direct sailing route was established between the newly discovered land and "Europe." What evidence we have of interchanges, show that ships sailed from Viking settlements in Scandinavia to Iceland and Greenland. It is very likely that the Greenlanders got timber from the new land, and likewise that it made its way to Iceland. Pelts and hides could have become objects of trade and exchange along the sailing routes.

Bringing grapes to Europe on Viking longships, along several quite challenges ocean crossings, is a stretch of the imagination.