2003 Seattle Annual Meeting (November 2–5, 2003)

Paper No. 10
Presentation Time: 10:45 AM


SUTHREN, Roger J.1, FOWLER, Michael B.2 and GUION, Paul D.1, (1)Geology, Oxford Brookes Univ, Gipsy Lane, Headington, Oxford, OX3 0JT, (2)Geography and Environmental Management Research Unit (GEMRU), Univ of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham, rjsuthren@brookes.ac.uk

In fieldwork in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France, we use wine as a theme to link aspects of regional geology, to introduce new field skills, and to increase student engagement. Here, in the largest wine-producing region in the world, is an exciting mix of traditional and 'New World' viticulture and winemaking.

The principal geological elements are two E-W trending mountain belts separated by a large sedimentary basin. To the N is the Montagne Noire, part of a late Palaeozoic orogen with a gneiss core and structurally complex Palaeozoic sedimentary cover. Vines grow well on deep marine mudstones of the Ordovician and early Carboniferous, especially in the appellations of St Chinian, Faugères and Minervois.

Further S, the Languedoc foreland basin was filled mainly by continental sediments from late Cretaceous-Eocene. The basin passes S into the foothills of the Pyrenees: basin sediments were involved in late Eocene Pyrenean deformation. The resultant E-W ridges and valleys are exploited for viticulture in southern Minervois, Corbières, Rivesaltes and Côtes du Roussillon.

For student mapping projects, terraced vineyards provide outcrops and float in softer, less well-exposed formations suited to vine growing. Vineyard boundaries often correspond to geological contacts, and students learn to appreciate connections between geology, landforms, and land use.

In undergraduate and outreach field courses, we study deposition of the foreland basin fill, including sites where Ampelosaurus ("dinosaur of the vines") is found. We investigate control of soil chemistry on vine growth. We explore links between history, archaeology and use of geological materials, e.g. at a disused gypsum mine used as an ageing cellar, and a Gallo-Roman pottery where amphorae for storing wine were manufactured from local clay. Finally, the scientific process is completed by rigorous evaluation of the products of the vine and its terroir!