It is proposed that the origin of the name of this grape variety is from the Greek word μαύρος, meaning “black.” In Bulgaria, Mavrud is also a male name. The variety is also known as kachivela/качивела in Pomorie and Burgas and as kaushanskiy/каушанскый in Bessarabia, a historical region in Moldova with a Bulgarian minority. The Mavrud grape variety is a subject of national pride, and is used for the production of dry red wines. Despite this, Mavrud makes up only about 1.5% of Bulgarian vineyards. It has been grown in Bulgaria since ancient times. Mavrud wines have a deep ruby color and are filled with tannins and acids. The flavor is distinctive, with blackberry and mulberry notes. Mature wines develop touches of cacao and chocolate as well. Ideally, Mavrud wines should mature in oak barrels to develop massive, complex aromas and a dense harmonic flavor.
Mavrud grape bunches are large, conical, one-sided and semi-compact. Like other old varieties Mavrud has large mixed population in the different vineyards. There are two main grape types, Clone 1 and Clone 2. Clone 2 is small, round, bluish-black in color with a heavy waxy coating, and Clone 1 is medium-large, round, dark blue and less waxy. The skin is thick and resilient. The fruit is sweet and fresh in taste. Mavrud is not frost resistant and a long, warm and dry autumn is needed for the grapes to fully ripen. It is a late-fruiting variety, ripening in the Plovdiv area in mid-October, and Clone 2 ripens about 10 days earlier than Clone 1. Clone 1 grapes give lighter and less sugary wines, while Clone 2 grapes produce thicker wines. This variety is relatively resistant to Botrytis and not very susceptible to powdery mildew.
Legend says Mavrud is related to the Bulgarian khan Krum, a leader who outlawed the production and use of alcohol and destroyed most of the vineyards in the First Bulgarian Kingdom. However, a poor widow kept a single grape plant to feed her son when he was sick. She hid the grapes, but they began to ferment, and so the widow also gave him the wine. Once the son was grown, one day he bested the khan in a contest in which one had to steal a hair from the khan’s beard. The kahn was impressed with his boldness, and asked where he was from. He told the khan about his mother and her grapes and wine. The khan brought the widow to his castle, and asked the name of the son, which was Mavrud. The khan declared that the widow’s grapevines should be planted and called Mavrud.
This grape variety brought prosperity to vineyard owners and winemakers in town of Asenovgrad in south Bulgaria in the 16th and 17th centuries. When the town was demolished in 1793 and again in 1810 by Ottoman hordes, it was later re-established and production of grapes and wine continued. The Great Plague (1814-1816) almost depopulated the region but the vineyards remained and revived local economy. The so-called Patriarsheski Mavrud (Patriarch’s Mavrud) was produced in the Bachkovo Monastery, established in 1083 near Asenovgrad. The monks used Georgian technology for wine making, maturing the wine in clay jars buried underground. The region is famous for another Mavrud wine, the so-called Stanimashka Malaga/Станимашката малага. This wine was produced by simmering and reducing the must to 30% of the initial volume, and maturing it for three years in small oak casks. Another technology uses dry grapes, giving wines a more concentrated sugar content.