The hedonistic call from hibernation

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“Shiraz is often thought to be Australia’s premium grape variety. That is certainly my opinion,” writes our hibernating wine columnist RICHARD CALVER. 

THE current hibernation has led to more books being read. Not library books, obviously, as libraries are closed but ISBN thinking about the treasure trove of knowledge locked away as I reluctantly purchase my next book. 

Richard Calver.

I’ve just finished “Hiking with Nietzsche” by John Kaag, a book that is both accessible yet deep. It’s a story of two journeys into the Swiss Alps by the writer at different stages of his life and how Nietzsche’s philosophies can assist us in preventing modern life from distracting and deadening us. 

Despite the sanguine advice it contains, I spent quite a bit of time this morning on Facebook. 

The other hibernation-coping mechanism is to eat and drink well. It was my daughter’s turn to cook. As a challenge, I suggested opening the French cookbook “La Cuisine” at random and making the first dish that was sighted. 

She accepted and the book fell open on a recipe for farci saintongeais. In English it sounds much less exotic: pork and greens meatloaf. It requires the addition of a large number of fresh herbs to the pork mince and bread mix. It cooks at a high heat and comes out of the oven with a great crispy crust but remains moist because of the cabbage leaves that are folded into the mixture.

The 2016 Hedonist shiraz… with a pig on the front.

The wine to have with it needed to be bold as the flavours of the meatloaf were loaded. I chose a 2016 Hedonist shiraz made by Walter Clappis wines from McLaren Vale. I acquired it about two years ago from a wine club that used to go under the name the Wine Gallery but is now called Good Pair Days. I know not why. I discontinued my membership because I became tired of someone else choosing what wine I would drink/store.

In any event, the Hedonist label has a pig on the front and, well, irrationally, the thought of matching it with the pork-based dish seemed appropriate. 

The link with hedonism is made on the back label where the winemakers say: “It may be a fine line but to increase pleasure and reduce pain is the aim of the Hedonist. With this in mind, we have let that age-old miracle of fermentation occur with the minimum of interference to produce this sensuous shiraz.” 

I wouldn’t describe it as sensuous. But it was certainly what you are looking for in a deep-toned, dark shiraz. It was full-bodied and slightly oaky with just a hint of tar. It matched well with the meatloaf given its fruit depth and full-bodied flavours. It is a good value-for-money midweek choice.

Shiraz is often thought to be Australia’s premium grape variety. That is certainly my opinion. For example, Henschke‘s Hill of Grace is to me better than a Grange because it has layers of flavour and complexity that are head-spinning but in a good way – delete that “Exorcist” thought. 

I haven’t had any of this varietal for years because it is very expensive. The Henschke Hill of Grace Eden Valley Shiraz 2015 has a recommended retail price of $865 a bottle. In a past life, I shared an earlier vintage of this fine drop with a bunch of lawyers at a sumptuous dinner; that was hedonism. 

But I can’t side with the hedonists in thinking that only pleasure has worth or value and only pain or displeasure has the opposite of worth because if you embraced that way of thinking these times in hibernation would be particularly unbearable. 

As I’ve heard it put, many of the things we thought to be essential are in fact luxuries, like walking into a library to be confronted with a large choice of reading material. 

“Let us tenderly and kindly cherish, therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.” – John Adams (1765)



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Richard Calver
Richard Calver walks, talks, thinks, drinks and writes passionately about wine, especially the wines of the Canberra region.


  1. A bit over-the-top on describing the quality of the wines. I like them drinkable and would like to make the point that Barossa Shiraz is regarded as the signature wine of Australia. They are also not usually very cheap but I can pass on the secret that you can get an Argentinian Mendoza Malbec, their
    signature wine, for a much cheaper price.

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