Our Stories · Place

150 Million Years of History


Clos Marey-Monge sits atop the Avant-Dheune Valley Dejection Cone, an alluvial fan that encourages ideal Pinot Noir-growing conditions to flourish. While the cherished terroirs of Pommard, and its 27 identified climats, have been cultivated and carefully preserved for thousands of years, it is the 150 million years of geology that lie beneath those famed soils that has contributed most to their enduring popularity.


150 Million Years Later: Clos Marey-Monge in 2016, before the Émilie plot (bottom left) was pulled up

IN THE BEGINNING…

Today’s phenomenal geology of Clos Marey-Monge has been sculpted over a period of 150 million years and shaped by several fascinating geological processes.

Beginning in the Upper Jurassic Age, it is here, right outside of our window, that the first subsoils of Clos Marey-Monge were formed with limestone and clay, baptized on the shallow seabed of a once tropical sea.

Tropical Sea: Jurassic-era Clos Marey-Monge, around 150 million years ago

The fierce circulation of saltwater, fossils, and minerals led to the vital depositing of nutrient-rich alluviums and fertile sediments that contain limestone, iron, marl and scree, all-important components that decide a decent Pinot Noir in this day and age. For 100 million years, an era known as the Oligocéne, this shallow tropical sea enriched the land, embedding and compacting dense sub-stratas of various rock types, soils, sands, and fossils. Give or take a few million years later, the Côte d’Or’s   – a name borrowed from “Côte d’Orient”, or east slopes – the famous 30 miles of (roughly) east, south-east facing  stretch of hills were first formed. These east-facing slopes are integral to Burgundy’s appeal, and the sole home to the region’s premier cru and grand cru terroirs. The slopes’ geological history has allowed them to display a fascinating degree of soil diversity underneath the vines.


Oligocéne Era:
Clos Marey-Monge, in orange, around 30 millions years ago

WAY BACK WHEN

Thirty million years ago, the granite bedrock covered by a layer of old sea bed sediments collapsed and cracked open, creating one large fault and many other smaller satellite faults which broke up and juxtaposed geological strata of different ages and types ultimately to form a mosaic of diverse soils.T his event pushed up to the surface ancient (160 million year-old) layers of limestone and clay, creating the escarpment which forms Burgundy’s stretch of Côtes overlooking the damp plains below. The slow erosion which took place over the Quarternary period, during the ice age, sculpted this into two escarpments.


Quarternary: C
los Marey-Monge, in orange, around five millions years ago

These hills or “Côtes” are nestled between the rift valley which makes up the Saône plains and a limestone plateau, and covered with scrub, woods and indigenous grasses. The hillsides first grew into view when cracks in the earth, or fault lines, as they are known, appeared in the limestone and marl layers of the land, following a powerful tectonic plate shift between the African and European plates. This is what caused the development of the Alps.

BURGUNDY BEGINS

This seismic event caused Burgundy’s tropical sea to drain away and the land to be pushed upwards. Under the tremendous weight of fertile sediment at the fault lines, and the two tectonic plates themselves stretching apart, the Côte d’Or began to bend at either ends, causing slopes to become sculpted out of the terrain. For the next few million years, intense erosion was the driving force, shaping and refining the land, leaving fertile sediment deposits at the bottom of the slopes.


Avant-Dheune Dejection Cone: The arrival of Clos Marey-Monge’s alluvial fan

The Quaternary Age (beginning around five million years ago) then settled in, bringing with it bitter cold and seasonal rivers that would decimate large rocks into smaller pebbles and wash away debris and allow large, coarse, alluvia – a deposit of clay, silt, and sand left by flowing floodwater that produce fertile soils – to accumulate in the valley of what we now call the Avant-Dheune. Today, these alluviums have eroded even further into a fine grain and are imbued with diverse physico-chemical properties, such as thickness, texture and stoniness. The finely textured alluvia encourage water to drain efficiently, allowing for the development of the huge soil diversity we know today to flourish and thrive.

WELCOME TO TODAY

Witnessing all this geological upheaval was the current location of the lower lying vineyard of Clos Marey-Monge. With its deeper soils of ancient alluvium and the Upper Jurassic-era well-drained clay-limestone soils that define the beloved muscularity and masculinity of Pommard, the vineyard has inherited diverse soil structures, with ten separate soil types identified in Adama’s geological report in 2017.


Today: Clos Marey-Monge in 2017, according to Adama’s geological report

Of course, when it comes to Burgundian winemaking, the winemaker must not be forgotten. When the first humans settled in Burgundy approximately 6,000 to 7,000 years ago, during the Neolithic period, they began tending to the soil for agricultural purposes, leaving not only an indelible footprint in the top soils but also learning how and why different terroirs can produce diverse results in winemaking. It took the ingenious, and thirsty, minds of Benedictine monks, 2,000 years ago, to plant the first Pinot Noir rootstocks in Pommard, thus awakening the soils next geological journey.

Related Stories

Émilie

Pulled up in 2016, the plot formerly known as Nadine,…

75 Rangs

Hidden among the 220 vines of the Grand Champ plot…

Deep Roots

For centuries, dating back to the era of the Dukes…