Definition - What does Vegetal mean?

Vegetal is a wine tasting term used to describe the aromas and flavors of vegetation in wine. These aromas and flavors denote the presence of unripe grapes in the harvest used to make the wine. Most critics consider predominant vegetal flavors as a major flaw, though in some wines, a subtle vegetable smell is pleasant and adds complexity - these subtle vegetal characteristics are usually called herbaceous. Vegetal notes are evident in a grassy or herbaceous odor or flavor that is similar to bell peppers, asparagus, broccoli and other plants or vegetables.

WineFrog explains Vegetal

Vegetal characteristics in a wine are created when unripe grapes are used in the production. During the winemaking process, fruit with vegetal characteristics have a lack of color development. This is due to the immature nature of the grapes. The wine will also have an undesirable tannic quality.

Unripe grapes contain more pyrazinaes, the chemical compound that has been connected with vegetal characters. The chief pyrazinaes attributed to vegetal characters are called methoxypyrazines (MP), though it should be noted that pyrazinaes are not the only causes of vegetal characters. Different vegetal flavors can denote different things in the wine.

In certain grape varieties, vegetal qualities are beneficial; for example, Cabernet Sauvignon has these vegetal characteristics, which are part of the varietal character. Asparagus is often found in Sauvignon Blanc through exaggerated pyrazine characters; this characteristic develops with age. In other varieties without pyrazines, asparagus flavors are caused by dimethyl disulphide. The following wines have vegetal flavors created by different elements as such:

  • Beetroot is an earthy-vegetal character that is usually a fault in Pinot Noir caused by geosmin.
  • Bell pepper, also known as green pepper, sweet pepper, pimento and capsicum, is a character found in Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc caused by pyrazine. In Cabernet Sauvignon, it is also caused by canopy vigour.
  • Broadbean is a typical Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon aroma.
  • Cabbage is a mercaptan fault often found in unfiltered wines.
  • Corn-on-the-cob is a fixed-sulphur fault, cucumber is a less ripe version of melon, garlic is an exaggerated blackcurrant aroma also caused by fixed-sulphur or mercaptan fault.
  • In Champagne, mushroom aroma can be fresh and savory as an acceptable aging characteristic but if it is dry and musty, then the cause is TCA; in a botrytised wine, mushroom is due to a high level of 3-octenol.
  • Fresh, green pea aromas are found in Sauvignon Blanc and will go away with aging.

These are just a few of the wines and their vegetal characteristics.

Share this:

Connect with us

Never Miss an Article!

Subscribe to our free newsletter now - The Best of WineFrog.