Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Malbec

We gathered the top questions searched about this special varietal to put together a primer with all the basics in one place.


What is Malbec?

Malbec is a strain of wine grape, Vitis vinifera ‘Malbec’. It’s one of the six red Bordeaux varieties, and is thin-skinned compared to the other five. It’s spherical and medium-sized, about 1 centimeter in diameter, with lots of pulp and juice.


Is Malbec sweet or dry?

Typically Malbec is a dry wine, with residual sugar of less than 10 grams per liter. Residual sugar is comprised of the glucose and fructose (fruit sugars) remaining after fermentation is complete and the grape juice has been transformed into wine. While there are no legal or official rules for classification of sweetness, within the industry the scale goes from bone dry (wines with less than 1 g/L of RS) to very sweet (in excess of 120 g/L). In general:


Bone dry Less than 1 gram of residual sugar per liter of wine
Dry 0-9 g/L
Off-dry 9-18 g/L
Medium dry / Semi-sweet 18-50 g/L
Medium sweet 50-120 g/L
Sweet / Very sweet 120+ g/L


What does Malbec taste like?

Malbec is a medium- to full-bodied red table wine. It has medium tannin and acid, and is highly aromatic and fruit-forward. One of its most common descriptors in our tasting room is, quite simply, ‘grapey’. It is easily recognizable in the glass as it can sometimes look almost artificially purple.

Where is Malbec from?

Malbec is the flagship grape of Cahors, France where it has been planted since the time of the Romans—who called it ‘The Black Wine’. Right around the time of the historic phylloxera decimation of much of France’s rootstock, French agronomist Michel Aimé Pouget brought Malbec to Argentina in 1853. The variety has thrived there ever since, especially in the regions of Mendoza, San Juan, and Salta. Today Argentina leads the world’s production with over 75 percent of the world’s Malbec grape plantings.

Local fare

At Merry Cellars, we’ve been working with Malbec since 2008. It’s a wonderful blending grape, bringing fruitiness and depth to any wine. It also shines on its own and we have featured it as a single varietal as one of our featured wine club allotments for years.


Now you’re an expert! Does this match up with what you think of our latest vintage of Malbec? Let’s keep the conversation going on Facebook, and don’t forget to raise a glass on World Malbec Day April 17th.

Cheers, friends!


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Maureen O'Callaghan

Assistant Winemaker

Hi my name is Maureen!
I attended wine school at the Institute of Enology and Viticulture at Walla Walla Community College from 2014-16. Professionally I started out in the industry on the growing side, working as a harvest intern and then viticulturist on Red Mountain. I joined Merry Cellars as the assistant winemaker in 2021.

Maureen O 'Callaghan

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