The week that was (12 January 2017)

At home - For the current state of play according to John Lethlean, read his article on 2016's culinary highlights, lowlights (yes, again) and a little speculation for 2017. There was an interesting look at the big wigs in the game: from the endless march of Merivale, to Matt Moran and the Solotel group, the Chin Chin and Long Chim replications and what (may) lie ahead for the Rockpool Dining Group. Is 2017 shaping up to be the year of the mega-dining group? And, if so, what will this mean for our food scene? Letho wraps it all up with a little nod to the excitement, and potential ramifications, of Australia hosting the World's 50 Best this year. Whatever it is we think of ourselves, we are about to find out what a whole lot of other (rather influential) people think of us ...

Abroad - In NYC Pete Wells reviewed Flora Bar, by those of Estela. He was glowing: "I’m on the verge of giving up trying to explain why Ignacio Mattos’s food is so good ... In retrospect, nothing I wrote captured the qualities that made the food compelling. I latched on to visual style because I couldn’t figure out how to explain why the flavors grabbed me the way they did ... It’s a kind of cooking that’s almost invisible." I enjoy Wells' thinking and this is another lovely read. For those less inclined to words, there's a photographic slideshow of the food, but more than all of that you need to click the Flora link to check out their voyeuristic Daily 360 vid of the establishment. A sign of things to come in restaurant reporting?

In booze - I enjoyed Jon Bonné (for Punch) talking about the year ahead in wine. The article meanders from the implications of immigration restrictions to Italian white wines; from the rise of "new Australia" and "new, new Cali", to a reckoning for the Rhone and a Bordeaux comeback. He, too, talks big business: "... the sort of white-bread wine brands that once made America a boring place to drink will have even more market power. Wine lists in less-inspired corners—hotel bars, chain steakhouses—are going to get even snoozier. And those who promote such wines are going to beat drums even harder about how it’s what “the consumer” wants. This year, it’s up to the little guys out in the heartland to keep it real."

Most of all, I enjoyed his discourse on definitions: yes, there's talk of natural wines, but there are also some more intriguing discussions around labelling. He looks at sustainability and 'greenwashing', programs "that sound virtuous but are strikingly vague on the details" - this is an issue for the food world too. Also on the front of the bottle, Bonné suggests there will be a further push to quit appelations in France and greater Europe. I am fascinated by terroir and while the French were the pioneers of terroir branding and marketing, they also appear to be the worst at adapting to new market ideas and demands. That is to say, more and more wineries are shunning regional references on their labels (and the tight constraints that come with them) so they can make the wine they want. It is crazy to think wine makers should conform to an ideal stipulated at a particular point in time, generally depending on the date the appellation was created. It's the age old question of status quo. There's a lot to ponder there.

In politics - Bonné was quick to acknowledge the political nature of his commentary: "Drinking is often a political act, even when we don’t intend it to be, and today we face more complexity than ever: How natural is natural wine? What farming is actually sustainable, and what’s just lip service? Am I giving my money to a small producer or to a big company? Are we elevating once-obscure places, or just shoving them into the crush of globalism?" Big thoughts that are applicable across the food, wine and restaurant industry. We can all march with our wallets.

And so, while I assume you will already have seen this year's MLA "you'll never lamb alone"advertisement, I feel it would be remiss of me not to include it here too. They're baby steps, but I think they're good ones.