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Cheers, Gavin! - Josh 349

Here's an odd thing.

Replying to Tweeter 'Hot Topic', who was highlighting this article in the Guardian, Gavin Schmidt said that there are "More than 10x number of English vineyards now than in medieval times." with a link to a 2006 Real Climate article.

Gavin implies that this comparison trumps the argument about English vineyards being proof that Medieval Warm Period was hotter.

However, one can conclude that those who are using the medieval English vineyards as a ‘counter-proof’ to the idea of present day global warming are just blowing smoke (or possibly drinking too much Californian).

Hang on a sec! Surely you would not compare the two without mentioning the population size -  the number of people buying and drinking the stuff - I mean that would be unscientific, wouldn't it?

A quick bit of research and doing some sums, admittedly by a cartoonist, gave me approximate ratios of 15 Vineyards per million in medieval times compared to 7.5 Vineyards per million today. That means that if you want to use Vineyards as a proxy for temperature (I wouldn't) the MWP was twice as hot as it it today!

I think we can conclude that this is simply Vintage Gavin (pronounced Ga-Vin) and we should all be enormously cheered up by the logic of climate science - what they can brew up with numbers is very entertaining.

Please embibe responsibly. No more that two units of Climate Science per day.


P.S. I didn't see it at the time but William Briggs also noted Gavin's omission.

Cartoons by Josh

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Reader Comments (63)

Owen Morgan

After the 1348 plague some Italian physicians were recommending people to boil water for drinking or for diluting wine.
In mediaeval Piacenza you could buy water in three categories, spring water, rain water or drain water for various purposes. Well- to -do religious orders such as the Dominicans were able to pipe in clean water from unpolluted sources several miles way from where they were living, and were known for their "conduits of clean tin", but poor city dwellers didn't have that choice.

Oct 29, 2015 at 8:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Well done Josh. Very compact barbs.

In vinyards no veritas..

Oct 29, 2015 at 8:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

So in summary:

2000 years ago we could grow grapes in Britain.
Today we can grow grapes in Britain.
And this is a sign that climate change is so rapid it's dangerous.

I think I understand that.

Oct 29, 2015 at 8:49 AM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

Brilliant stuff Josh.

Oct 29, 2015 at 9:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

In Brittany we grow apples and make cider. South of us in the Loire they grow grapes and make wine. North of us in England they grow grapes and make Rats Piss.

Oct 29, 2015 at 9:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterIvor Ward


There are now more than 10,000 registered varieties of wine grapes. Many of these varieties have been specifically bred to grow in milder climates and it is these varieties that are currently being grown in the more northern latitudes.

I doubt that any vineyard in England is currently growing the same variety of grape as was grown in Medieval/Roman times so all the current crop of vineyards tell us is that we have hardier varieties of grapes and better growing techniques.

Oct 29, 2015 at 9:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

Based on UK total yields since 1989-2013:

There is a negative correlation between CET temperature and yield of -0.38 and a positive correlation between levels of CO2 and yield of 0.26

Insignificant but interesting.

Oct 29, 2015 at 9:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterNeilC

Yes things obviously grow better in a warm climate and a PhD in maths doesn't guarantee a basic level of statistical understanding or logical thought.

Oct 29, 2015 at 9:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

we can also grow bananas in UK, so it must "worse than we thought" :)

[snip - language. Let's try to keep the ad homs in check]

Oct 29, 2015 at 11:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterVenusNotWarmerDueToCO2

Just thought I'd point out this advertorial in the Telegraph.

It appears as though English wine can match French for quality.

Oct 29, 2015 at 12:29 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney


Scotland's flourishing vines are out in the weather, not sitting behind glass .

That's a use of the word 'flourishing I'm completely unaware of. Given that vines in CORNWALL can struggle to ripen well without the use of polytunnels, your claim is a tad more bizarre than your usual offerings.

One more thing that seems to have been overlooked - in the frequently dank climate of the UK, we have something available to us that the mediaeval grower never had - fungicides. As soon as heavy dews come down from late August onwards, growers struggle because moisture on the surface of the fruit makes a happy breeding ground for all manner of plagues. Without the use of copious quantities of fungicides, we get nothing (even in France - Google 'Bordeaux mixture' if you're interested).

Meanwhile 'organic' grapes also get masses of fungicide because for some reason toxic copper compounds are permitted, not because they are safe or pleasant (they aren't), but because they don't suffer from the taboo of being synthetic.

Oct 29, 2015 at 5:18 PM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

Someone mentioned Rondo above. This is a hybrid between vitis vinifera and vitis amurensis -- the latter a species which comes from the Russian/Chinese border and is noted for its rapid response to season changes. I've tasted a Rondo red which was at least as good as mid-range Australian counterparts, but I suspect that the recent cool summers will have made things a bit difficult for vintners. My fragola on the house is not ripening well again this year.

There's a restaurant just south of Stanton, Suffolk which sells wines from its own vineyard, well worth a visit. The Leaping Hare.


Oct 29, 2015 at 10:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterJulian Flood

Despite all the sour grapes here, British champagne has displaced Lanson and even Krug at Buck House:

"Ridgeview Grosvenor 2009 was served at the state banquet to welcome Chinese president Xi Jinping, and Gordon Ramsay has listed not just one but several English wines at his new restaurant in Bordeaux, of all places.

And at a recent blind tasting organised by Noble Rot magazine, who will publish the full results on Monday, English wine scored a triumph over champagne, with two English wines (Hambledon Classic Cuvée and Nyetimber Classic Cuvée 2010) beating the likes of Pol Roger and Taittinger to finish in first and second place."-- The Telegraph

Nov 2, 2015 at 4:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

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