Where is Gambo?

Gambo is located in central eastern Newfoundland, 40 km east of Gander and 294 km west of St John's. Our latitude is 48° 45'N. Some others that share the 48th are:

Paris, France
48° 49'
Troyes, France
48° 30'
Reims, France
48° 71'
Vienna, Austria
48° 14'
Munich, Germany
48° 90'
Volgograd, Russia
48° 42'
Victoria, British Columbia
48° 25'

Pretty good company!

In The Zone

Grapes are native to the warm temperate zone and their culture is most successful between 34° and 49° north and south latitude. Broadly, climate limits grape production to the Temperate Zone and further limits the highest development of individual varieties to localized areas within this zone, (Winkler et al). However there are exceptions to this such as the Rhine Valley in Germany where grapes grow between 50° and 51° north latitude. We should also note that there are small-scale cold climate growers in places such as:

Whitehorse, Yukon
60 05'
Brandon, Manitoba
49 55'
Hallstahammar, Sweden
59 38'
Vitebsk, Belarus
55 20'
Vilnius, Lithuania
54 80'
Helsinki, Finland
60 05'
Laerdal, Norway
61 20'

Many grapes are best grown in cooler areas. Generally too, the best wines are produced under conditions where terroir is only warm enough to just ripen the grapes. (Terroir being the combination of climate, soil, exposure to the elements, wind, shelter, irrigation and vineyard location).
Warm, not hot days combined with cooler nights ensure a slower more even maturing process of the grapes. Wine from such areas is characteristically higher in acids and highly aromatic. These higher acids result in wines with a longer natural ageing potential. Some grapes require downright cool conditions like the infamous Pinot Noir grape, of which it has been said "is best suited to temperate, foggy, even downright cold appellations. It buds early and ripens early, and the longer the berries can hang on the vine before becoming too ripe the more complex the resulting wine. Pinot needs regular sun to ripen, yet too much heat and sun cause it to ripen before it has a chance to develop its full potential for flavour and aroma". Hmmm........very interesting.

Hey We're Cool!

Actually there are many people who think we are extremely cold. When you see maps of Canada on television such as on The Weather Network, it appears that we are way up north when in fact most of Newfoundland is located further south than the province of British Columbia. Newfoundland has long had the stigma of being a cold and inhospitable place. Historically, it's always been referred to as the place where grapes would not grow when discussing Leif Ericson's discovery of Vinland. Yet there are places in Newfoundland that are idyllic with lush green growing areas. Many plants such as roses, irises, saskatoons, blueberries, bilberries, cherry trees, and even apple trees to name a few, grow wild. Gambo in particular is such a place and from all indications appears to be well suited for cool climate viticulture.

Do We Have The Heat?

Unfortunately, there is no weather data for Gambo, however, Gander's weather has been well documented and since it is only 40 km from us we can use that data for our macroclimate and look at their growing season, heat, degree days, sunshine hours and of course, winters. (It should, however, be noted that Gander is not only at a higher elevation than Gambo, it is also inland, whereas in Gambo we are located on Freshwater Bay).

The Growing Season
A growing season is calculated by determining the number of days between the last occurrence of -2C (28F) in spring and the first occurrence of -2C in the fall (Cornell Viticulture). Data (Bio-Climate profiles) shows that the growing season for Gander is averaged to be 166 days. Data being collected here at Gambo (mesoclimate) supports this figure, our last > -2C occurring May 7th in 2003, and our first > -2C occurred November 4 2003. This gave us a growing season of 180 days for 2003.

Heat Units
For the years 2001 and 2002 Gander recorded 1308 and 1161 DDC respectively. As of October 31 2003 our DDC here in Gambo are > 1600 having been recorded only since May 1st this year, (the recording period is normally April 1st to October 31st). This does seem rather high when compared to other grape growing areas such as Christchurch, New Zealand which has 1000 DDC or Vineland, Ontario with 1361 DDC. This is because in Newfoundland we use base 5°C for our calculations instead of base 10°C, due to our increased daylight hours. (NL Agriculture). However we could use 8°C as our base as since it has been noted that in northern areas vine growth begins at 8°C. (General Viticulture, Winkler et al. pg. 104). This then gives us a figure of 1185 DDC for the period May 1 to October 31 in 2003 as the following table shows.

Mean Temperature
Base 10°C
Base 8°C
Base 5°C
no data
no data
no data
no data

Latitude-temperature Classification
The latitude-temperature index tends to be more accurate than heat units in predicting succesful grape varieties in cooler districts. Here in Gambo our L-T index was 214 for 2004 despite it being a very cool summer. Suitable grape varieties to try would be those in Class A-1, A-2, and B.

Heat Unit Class Equivalent
L-T Index
Wine Type & Grape Varieties
Varieties Predicted As Suitable
Less than 190
Very Cool
Light fruity wine, low alcohol wines
Gewurztraminer, Madeleine Angevine, Reichensteiner, Perle, Schonberger, Muller-Thurgau, Tromphe d'Alsace
Less than 190
Premium white wines, light red wines
Pinot gris, Pinot blanc, Pinot noir, Pinot meunier, Chasselas, Sylvaner, Chardonnay, Faber, Kerner, Scheurebe, Auxerrois, Aligote, Bacchus
190 to 270
Cool to warm
Full premium whites, premium reds
Reisling, Pinot noir, Chardonnay
270 to 380
Premium reds
Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet franc, Merlot, Malbec, Sauvignon blanc, Semillon
Greater than 380
Warm to hot
Standard and bulk wines
Carignane, Grenache, Shiraz, Thompson Seedless, Cinsaut, Zinfandel
Table from Viticulture 606, University of Guelph

A HOBO (weather monitoring device) is placed in the vineyard to monitor minimum/maximum temperatures and humidity more accurately. Soon we will have a better picture of the meso climate here.

There is no lack of sunshine during the summer months here in Gambo. For the norm we are not foggy here at all, even when there is fog in Gander and across the bay, we seem to be in some kind of trough. At times, too, it may be raining in Gander but it passes us by.

Winter conditions here in Gambo surprise many people. Newfoundland usually conjures up visions of icebergs, snow storms, wind, fog and really cold temperatures. We may experience these elements to some extent but winters here are not that cold by Canadian standards. St John's is ranked third of the warmest cities during Canadian winters, behind Victoria and Vancouver. Winter comes gradually to Gambo, with fall usually being very pleasant. February appears to be our coldest month, temperatures in some years may dip to -23C but with the amounts of snowfall we experience this is not a problem as snow is a very good insulator for the vines. We are considered a USDA Zone 6, Canada Zone 5 based on our winter lows.

If low temperature is higher than
Injury hazzard is
Suitable varieties
very low
almost any
most northern vinifera
hardy vinifera/moderately hardy hybrids
hardy hybrids/most American
> -26°C
very high
hardy American varieties

MacPherson & MacPherson in The Natural Environment of Newfoundland Past & Present, noted that during a 30 year period temps greater than -25°C occurred 0 times, temps greater than -20°C occurred 3 times, temps greater than -15°C occurred 19 times.

Winter Low Temperature and Snow Cover For Gander

Lowest Temperature and Month Recorded
Amount of Snow Cover When Low Occurred
-22.6°C Feb.
66 cm
-23.1°C Feb.
108 cm
-19.5°C Feb.
114 cm
-17.4 Mar.
43 cm
-18.7°C Jan.
24 cm
-23°C Jan.
21 cm
-22.8°C Mar.
45 cm
-21°C Jan.
55 cm
-22°C Feb
127 cm

Grape Varieties

There are many grape varieties available for cool climate growers. Recommended varieties for Newfoundland could be the very early to early types. It may be possible in suitable areas to grow some of the more winter hardy vinifera. Other areas would be suited to many of the French/American hybrids. Research is needed to determine which variety or varieties are best suited to Newfoundland's unique and varied growing conditions.

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