Although its origin hasn’t been confirmed via genetic research, most ampelographers have come to the consensus that the Romanian “Grasă” (Romanian for “fat”), or “Grasă de Cotnari”, and Kövérszőlő are one and the same grape variety. Altought this title has only been apparent since the 19th century and onwards among the Tokaj grapes.
Professionals also believe that Kövérszőlő is the same as “Fejérszőlő”, which goes back to as far as the 17th century, being mentioned in multiple texts. It’s been grown for more than hundreds of years around the Cotnar area in Romania. In this region, three different types are described: another with yellow or greenish berries, and one with a crunchier fruit skin. This amount of variability can be related to Cotnar being the original home of Kövérszőlő.
According to a Romanian folktale, Stephen III, a Moldavian monarch was visiting Matthias I in his court in Gyulafehérvár, where the former was so impressed by the Kövérszőlő wine he tasted that he actually returned with several cuttings in order to create a plantation of his own back home. Another tale claims that Kövérszőlő was brought to Cotnar from Hungarian territory by the German Gutnar, where he gave his name to the village that gave home to the vineyards Gutnar-Kotnar) in the 15th century.
It is easily recognised by its large, dark green, deeply toothed leaves and, of course, its giant (fat) berries (Kövér-szőlő = Fat-grape) and large clusters. Its secondary shoots grow forcefully and it takes a special sort of attention to make sure that its clusters don’t become too overwhelmed with its leafage. Failing to address this can lead to a slow ripening process and increases the chance of acidobacter infection. The latter is more probable thanks to the amount of wasps and boars that like to feast on its easily consumable berries. It ripens one, maybe two weeks earlier than Furmint. It’s recommended to harvest it at the end of September or the beginning of October if one aims to make dry wine out of it. The examinations of the Tokaj Research Institute compare the grape to older, white wine yielding grape varieties such as the variations of Goher, Balafánt or the White járdovány. When it comes to the potential of dry wine, the character and qualities of the dry Kövérszőlő are the closest to the Furmint. Its growing popularity in the past centuries is also thanks to the fantastic quality, greasy, rich aszú berries it can yield after having been affected by noble rot. Harvesting these berries can lead to the production of incredibly valuable sweet wines. Many like to consume it fresh, as a fruit snack, although its thin skin makes it susceptible to bursting open, therefore the transportation of Kövérszőlő is quite troublesome.
It is grown on more than 400 hectares today in Romania, primarily among the hills of the Moldovan wine region and its twelve main foothills, in the Cotnar region, secondarily in the Wallachian and Oltenian wine regions, in the area of Dealu Mare. Dry, semisweet, sweet and late harvest wines are all made from its fruit. It was quite the important grape type in the Tokaj region until the unfortunate phylloxera plague destroyed most of its plantations, making it almost completely disappear from the repertoire of grapes. Multiple smaller installations of Kövérszőlő were created in the 1990s, which leads to a total amount of a little more than 50 hectares being produced today (a small sum of 1% of the whole region). Its wine can be labelled once again as “Tokaji” since 1998.
translated by Mara Várhelyi
Read more about other grape varieties of the Tokaj wine region!