Petrichor as wine note


Amy Pond shills for the fictional perfume "Petrichor" in the Doctor Who episode "Closing Time"

I first heard the word petrichor in the recent Doctor Who episode The Doctor’s Wife and assumed it was an invention of the author Neil Gaiman. As it turns out it is a favourite word of his, but its origins can be traced back to two Australian botanists who coined the term in an article for the journal Nature in 1964. It is described as “the scent of rain on dry earth.”

Anyone who studies wine more than casually will make the connection with this scent and the “stony/mineral” character on the nose and palate of a wine, especially younger whites. Interestingly, petrichor is identified as originating with an oil exuded by certain plants which is absorbed into soil and rocks, only to be released later during rainfall. This would tend to put the scent more in the “herbaceous” or “vegetal” category, technically speaking – though wine tasting is more an impressionistic exercise than a science. Or to paraphrase Humpty Dumpty, a wine note means what you want it to mean, no more and no less.

So I might end up using the word in my notes at some time in the future, though perhaps not in any for-credit exams this term. In tangentially related news, the Doctor has been known to drink wine on a number of occasions through the years, though his current incarnation seems not to care for it.