When white is gold

Ken Helm calls his riesling a ‘gold’ wine when he gets Chinese buyers at his cellar door. (Photo: Helm Wines)

It’s always irritated me slightly that we call certain grapes ‘white’ grapes, and the wine made from them, ‘white’ wine. Anyone can see they’re not white at all. The grapes, and wine, range from yellow-green through to golden (some with a purple tinge).

“To sell white wine in China is difficult since white is the funeral colour, whereas red is the lucky colour – as is gold.” – Ken Helm

This has become a practical problem for white wine exporters to China. Canberra district winemaker Ken Helm, a noted riesling specialist, pointed this out in response to my recent article about Penfolds pushing its ‘white’ wines in China.

Helm writes:

“We have a son who is executive director of food and beverage at the biggest casino in Macau and married to a Chinese girl, and they have two of our grandchildren.

“We spend a lot of time with them and are learning Cantonese and Chinese customs.

“To sell white wine in China is difficult since white is the funeral colour, whereas red is the lucky colour – as is gold.

“So I have been using a new technique presenting our rieslings to Chinese buyers at our cellar door (Helm Wines at Murrumbateman). We call them ‘gold wines’, and they get more golden as you age them.

“It has been a great success, especially if you speak a little Cantonese or Mandarin.”

Well, I guess that’s a smart move, after all, the colour of riesling at any age is closer to gold than white.

Helm, a well-known riesling nut, has a postscript.

“We have had a record vintage with riesling and our new dedicated state-of-the-art riesling winery is working beautifully.”

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