Origin of the slate
The slate-rock formations of the Monts de Faugères emerged in the Paleozoic era 300 to 350 million years ago, in the geological carboniferous age. They are part of the several hundred million years old Variscan Mountains of the supercontinent Gondwana, which are still visible on the surface in some parts of Europe today, in particular in western Spain, in the Pyrenees and Cevennes, Brittany and western England, the Ardennes and western mountains of Germany, Bohemia, and in parts of the Swiss and Austrian Alps. There are only a handful of wine growing regions in Europe which are located on primary rock soils slate, granite or gneiss. During the carboniferous area a large number of plants and trees already existed; amongst them the ancestors of ferns, but also the first forms of amphibians and reptiles. The climate was warm and humid.
Emergence of the slate
The slate in Faugères was created by deposits of clay and sand. When the process of continental drift began to take on momentum these sediments were displaced deep underground, where they were transformed under the impact of high temperatures and pressures into granite, gneiss and slate. During the mesozoic era the old layers were covered by marine sediments in the form of limestone, which today dominate the landscape of southern France and large parts of Europe. This is the reason why most wine regions in Europe are located on more recent clay and limestone soils. Later in time the mesozoic limestone layers in Faugères were eroded, and the old slate soils reappeared.
Peculiarities of the slate
The slate rocks in Faugères are, like all primary rock soils, rich in minerals but poor in lime. This is the reason why these soils are acidic and have a low pH. The natural vegetation on acidic slate soils is significantly different than to that on basic calcareous soils. Wild fennel, chestnut trees or ferns are typical plants. The vines also grow very differently compared to calcareous soils, resulting in very different wines.
Slate has unique large water storing capacities due to the capillary forces in its columns. For the vines this is extremely important in the climate of southern France, as this allows them to always find some moisture even in extreme summer drought.
The slate differs from one plot to another. In certain plots because of its iron content the slate is reddish, in other places it is rusty brown, greyish, bluish or almost black, depending on the mineral content. Also the thickness and depth of the slate layers varies from one plot to another, which each slate telling a different story from prehistoric times of our planet.
For winemakers like us, the most interesting and challenging part of our work is to express the slate terroir of each plot to the maximum in our wines.