Madrasa or Matrassa grape as it’s popularly known in Azerbaijani, is a unique and peculiar red grape variety grown and recognized as a signature variety of Azerbaijan.
Being an Islamic country, production and consumption of alcoholic wines here are forbidden; although Azerbaijan’s influence over the centuries with Russians in the north and Turks in the west has helped Azerbaijanis cultivate the grape to produce Azerbaijani wines.
Madrasa grape is a fairly old variety with earliest cultivated records going back to the 1500’s when the grape got introduced from the Steppes by several travelers and immigrants.
Azerbaijan historically, has had association with winemaking since ancient times as can be seen by several Greek writings that suggest that ancient Greeks were aware of winemaking here.
Arabic travelers and writers like Abu ‘I-Fida and Al-Muqaddasi extensively wrote on viticulture and winemaking traditions in what are now Azerbaijani regions.
The country’s hilly topography, cool climate and crisp air combine to form an ideal environment to produce grape varieties that grow well in cool climates.
History of Madrasa
Madrasa grapes have their origin in Central Asia and Steppes, where unknown adventurers might have introduced the grape here.
Azerbaijan strangely has a history of winemaking with some of the most popular international wines like Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Aligote being grown in the Ganja and Nagorno-Karabakh areas en-masse.
The Madrasa has medieval origins. Azerbaijan topographically is located at a crossroads with Iran in south, Russia in north, while major economies like Turkey to the west.
Satellite nations like Armenia have also had historical influence over the tiny nation. Winemaking especially has had Russian influence because of its Christian culture. Azerbaijan used to be a Soviet satellite that was annexed by the Soviets in the 1920’s.
Being a European major power, Russia over the years influenced Azerbaijani traditions and cuisine. In addition, during the medieval ages, Azerbaijan was involved in a lot of political conflicts with the Ottoman Turks in the west, who, during 1600s expanded rapidly to form one of the largest Muslim sultanates.
Vast swathes of Azerbaijan were taken under Ottoman control and Turkish influence on cuisine and food is directly observed here.
Turks, themselves being Sunni do not have had much association with winemaking although several local beverages and forms of tea and coffee are consumed along with mainstream cuisine.
Azerbaijan strangely evolved to produce wines in spite of the majority here being Sunni.
The Madrasa kept up its growth in the 15th century Azerbaijan when it got introduced to the Ganjabasar region in the 20th century.
This region is fertile with ideal conditions to grow the grape, so it permanently got a homeland. Ganja region of Azerbaijan is thus the biggest producer of Madrasa.
Climatically, Azerbaijan is more or less uniform with cold climate throughout the year owing to the Caucasus Mountains spread throughout the tiny nation.
The grape grows best in cold climates with mild summers and dry soils so it’s best to have mild irrigation when cultivating.
Azerbaijan’s mountainous geography as well as close proximity to the Caspian Sea provides it with varieties of micro climates to grow different grape varieties; probably one of the main reasons why over 450 grape varieties have been recorded to have existed in the entire history of Azerbaijan.
The Madrasa is a fairly early budding variety with harvests in the Shamakhi region taking place around August while that in the Ganja region taking place in August.
When ideally produced, the Madrasa gives off medium acidic and tannic content that is mostly heavily pigmented, dark coloured and well structured.
The grape, due to its mild properties, is also used as a blending agent with several other grapes grown in this region.
Its dry, fruity character proves to be a generous blending agent.
Madrasa wines are consumed throughout Azerbaijan and its local cuisine. Azerbaijani cuisine is alike any other Caucasian cuisine with heavy influences from Iran and Turkey.
Iranian food is characterized by heavy sustenance on rice, vegetables and even fruits and being predominantly mild and wholesome, most Iranian dishes suit very well with Madrasa.
Turkish food is quite similar to its Iranian counterpart, probably because of the Islamic nature, however, the latter’s cuisine is closer to Mediterranean cuisine with heavy influence from the Greeks and other neighboring European nations.
Being mild and wholesome at the same time, Madrasa wines are consumed by many who admire Turkish delights.
I have been online since it all began, with blogging and creating websites. Drinking wine, and writing about them, are one of my passions. Remember to drink responsibly 🙂
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