Even if round pebbles are present on numerous plots, they certainly don’t cover the whole appellation area which boasts a very wide variety of soils. Some sectors are composed of gravelly or sandy earth and some even with calcareous or calcareous-clay soils.
The environment is equally varied with successions of plains, plateaux, terraces and hillsides.
The infamous Châteauneuf-du-Pape “round pebbles” and their effects on the wine
During the Ice Age, these pebbles were swept down from the Alps by the Rhône River when it covered the entire valley.
These pebbles are very numerous in some plots, giving the impression that the vineyards literally grew within a sea of pebbles.
These are mostly composed of large rock crystals mixed with red sandy clay. After storing up the day’s heat, they return it to the soil and vines over night, thus contributing to preserving the vine stocks at a constant temperature, allowing for bunches to ripen perfectly.
During the 1970’s, when Châteauneuf-du-Pape was beginning to acquire worldwide recognition, many American wine-growers tried to buy these pebbles and to send them by containers back to California.
The wine-makers are still laughing about that!