Appellations: A geographical or geological concept?
The concept of controlled appellation of origin for wines and brandies was created in 1947 to protect wines from forgery. As the appellation encompasses wines produced within the same geographical area, it can lead to confusion with the concept of terroir. Contiguous land does not necessarily imply a terroir of identical quality for all the wines within the same appellation, quite the contrary! Conversely, some identical terroirs are located in different appellation areas.
The ‘terroir’ that determines a wine’s quality stems from three factors:
– the geology of the soil and subsoil
– the climate
– viticultural management
– Within the same appellation area, the geology differs from one vineyard to another, hence producing wines of extremely different standards.
– The same is true of the climate: The aspect of a vineyard in relation to the four compass points and the topography (plain, plateau, hillside) have an impact on the amount of sunshine, rainfall, wind, erosion, humidity, and therefore on the quality of the wines.
– Finally, viticultural management, which shows deference to organic life or not and the production of humus required to aerate the soils and subsoils, has a direct incidence on decompaction of the soil, the quality of the terroir and the resultant wines.
Château Fougas boasts an atypical terroir within its appellation area
The geology of Château Fougas
From a geological perspective, the soil is formed of water-borne and windblown colluvium. Swelling, ‘smectite’ clay is coupled with layers of iron-rich red and blue clay on top of a limestone bedrock of Fronsac molasse.
The windblown clay imparts great finesse to the wines whilst the molasse brings balance.
The topography is also extremely atypical: Fougas, located on a plateau, enjoys natural water drainage due to two small streams situated below, at the farthest eastern and westernmost points. Western winds sweep across this 35-metre-high plateau, rapidly drying the vines in rainy weather and thus protecting them naturally against disease.
Perhaps when the concept of controlled appellation of origin was created, it would have been wiser to take geology into account rather than the idea of geographical contiguity amongst wine estates.