The Colors of Autumn

By José Luis Gallego, environmental communicator (@ecogallego)

Autumn transforms the vineyard into a great outdoor art gallery. The vines have completed their yearly cycle and delivered their fruit to the winery. And now, before yielding their leaves to the earth below and resuming their arduous journey to the next harvest, the vineyards dedicate a few weeks to making art.

 

As the leaves lose chlorophyll and hold on to the last sugar in their veins, as though resisting death, the vineyard rows paint the landscape a colorful mosaic of pale greens, yellows, reds, and shades of gold that is, in and of itself, an exquisite expression of beauty. 

 

 

Paisaje otoñal en la finca Grans Muralles, propiedad de Familia Torres

Autumnal landscape at Grans Muralles vineyard, a Familia Torres property

 

 

It is a fleeting beauty that will pass when the cold weather, the wind and storms strip the plant and turn the lush summer vineyards into an austere field of dry canes. 

 

 

Viñedos, en estado de reposo y actividad latente, de Sant Miquel, en Tremp (Pirineo catalán)

Dormant vineyards in Sant Miquel, Tremp (Catalan Pyrenees)

 

 

The vines aren't the only ones revealing their full color palette during the fall season. Vineyards that grow close to a river are surrounded by the autumn hues of another seasonal star: the deciduous forest.

 

Riverside forests are among the most threatened ecosystems in our natural environment. Splayed out across wide valleys or squeezed into narrow canyons, and occasionally growing around the vineyards, fluvial forests bring us some of the most beautiful impressions of the Iberian landscape this time of year.

 

 

Hojas de la vid en otoño de los viñedos de Familia Torres

Grapevine leaves in autumn at the Familia Torres vineyards

 

 

Much like the vines, the appearance of alders, ash trees, black poplars, poplars, and willows has changed since the summer due to rainfall and lower temperatures. These forests transform with the seasons, and now – when they are about to shed their leaves, still tethered ever so slightly to the branches – they offer us one of the most beautiful, fleeting sights in the forest: with every gust of wind, their leaves fall delicately, like gentle yellow rain, to carpet the ground of the park or grove in a layer of ochre.

 

A little further up from the vineyards – although the climate crisis is increasingly forcing them to these latitudes – the deciduous mountain forests composed of beeches, chestnut and walnut trees attract the greatest number of visitors during the Iberian autumn.

 

Few activities bring us closer to nature than walking through the beech woods of Navarra or La Rioja in November. The silence, the pleasant feel of the damp carpet of fallen leaves below our feet, and the serene atmosphere that soothes the spirit as we walk invite us to calm our thoughts and feel connected to our environment. 

 

Joining the colorful leaves are the red and yellow fruit of the strawberry tree. Dangling from its branches are little balls, with a smattering of white blossoms in between, that make it seem as though nature had decorated its very own Christmas tree. Holly completes the composition, its crimson berries like tiny stoplights in the woodland thicket, filling the forest with colors – the colors of autumn.

 

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