Autumnal Aromas

Written by Al Drinkle

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Aromas are particularly vivid in autumn. It’s partly the subliminal smell of leaves, grasses and other seasonal fixtures emitting their dying breath, but I think that the temperatures, while they remain on the right side of freezing, help to make everyday scents more evocative too. The aromatic canvas isn’t the smell of decay, but the fragrance of seasonal slumber and pipe tobacco in the distance, a neighbour’s savoury cooking and the steeping of tea all strike emotive high-notes at this time of year. Some mornings it feels like aromas are so rife with meaning that I’m involved in an actual dialogue with the season. And since our olfactory sense is the one most closely linked with memory, autumn is also when our memories are the most haunting and lucid.

Pleasurable experiences can be fleeting while dark times often perpetuate regret, and therefore memories of either kind can be laced with melancholy. But experience is the most important part of the framework that defines each of us and melancholic titillation is to be preferred over complacent pedestrian numbness. And it’s a significant consolation that wine tastes particularly good during the autumn months. Wine from the northern hemisphere is celebrating its birthday right now and great bottles take advantage of the aromatic eloquence that is possible at this time of year to stir in us the most vivid and gossamer details of our past. The right wine on a cool evening smells and tastes great, but more importantly, it illustrates the profound dichotomy between its own inherent serenity versus the chaos in our hearts, minds and souls.

A wine that isn’t delicious is bereft of utility, but taking that for granted, perhaps the greatest virtue it can possess is a sense of tranquility engendered by an understanding of its modest but interconnected role in the world. A great wine makes this sagacious stillness seem so easy that it can inspire us to be more calm, compassionate and understanding versions of ourselves. Thus the sybaritic summer chugging segues into the contemplative sips of autumn as an essential counterpoint to life’s desultory bedlam.