In the beginning… a great upheaval

The Rhone Valley was the result of an epic geological clash between the Massif Central and the Alps, creating a rift valley which was flooded by the Mediterranean. Three hundred million years ago, volcanic activity in the Massif Central produced the granitic rocks of the northern Rhone, while in the South, successive layers of fluvial and calcareous marine sediments formed such reliefs as the Dentelles de Montmirail – a huge bar of worn and scalloped limestone – and Mont Ventoux. Forty million years ago, the Alps were pushed upwards, causing the valley separating the two massifs to collapse. The Alpine Gulf created in this way was filled by the Mediterranean, which gradually deposited a base layer of hard limestone and marl (calcareous clay). Later, the closing of the Strait of Gibraltar considerably lowered the level of the Mediterranean, with the result that the Rhone began digging itself a deeper bed, creating fluvial terraces on either side of the valley and mixing the different elements in the hillside soils: sands, clay containing flinty pebbles. Today, the valley’s soils consists of four different types of rock: granite, sandy silica, limestone and clay. The bedrock plays an essential role in the way in which the growing vines are supplied with water, determining the varied aromas and flavors of Rhone wines

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