Sydney, prepare yourself for a sensory experience.
Penfolds has collaborated with renowned London-based designers Studio Toogood to create a unique multi-sensory environment dedicated to wine called THE BLOCKS. Through various art and design, visitors are left to wander the cool, dark and cavernous space and explore their surrounds as a prelude to a revelation of the studio’s concept.
The temporary installation with a pop-up wine bar and restaurant is located at the end of Pier 2/3 in Walsh Bay. To find it, you need to locate another piece of art, the crushed red car on top of the roundabout on Hickson Road, then follow the signs to the end of the pier.
Once you’ve had the opportunity to smell, touch, look and feel, gather around the five numbered pillars, or BLOCKS, and you’ll be greeted by the “noses”, the sommeliers who will guide you through the concept.
Each block has been perfumed with different aromatics and stands as an interpretation of a variety of wine or a region. You are left to associate each totem with its matching piece of art and play the guessing game.
Number 1 represents the Aromatic Whites, such as Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Traminer and Pinot Gris. The layered shape of the block shape represents the various layers of smell united by a singular variety, the pole in the centre.
Artist: Stevie Fieldsend
The related artwork is the most impressive, two pieced of charred timber with glass poured on top of it. Two different types of timbers are used, and by sheer coincidence, they match those of the totem.
With its lemony scent and buttery notes, Number 2 denotes Chardonnay, and uses fine grain timber which is reminiscent of the French oak used in barrels. The ball on top represents snow, though it can also be indicative of a single grape variety. Chardonnay vineyards are located in high altitudes and covered in snow for extended periods, hence the association with height and snow.
Artist: Samuel Hodge
The accompanying artwork is a series of images that are only related by one factor – they are photographs that have remained pure and not photoshopped, much like the purity of the single grape.
With jagged edges or scissor-like teeth resembling diamond shapes that blend into one, Totem Number 3 represents the Varietal Blends.
Artist: Kit Webster
The matching art installation also has a diamond shape and is made of three image types. Crystal, water and grapes have been entered into a sound program to blend into one image, and being fed from top and bottom, the images are never the same.
Block Number 4 represents the Regional, different shapes and areas that come together into one piece.
Artist: Katherine Huang
The matching artwork consists of a variety of objects and experiences that the artist has experienced from travels abroad and that have been turned into a visual representation and cast in ceramic. The piece in the image above on the left depicts a sunset in Luxor.
Big, bold and masculine and strong, the last block, Number 5, with its geometric wooden totems rising from the base is symbolic of Penfolds Shiraz.
Artist: Haines & Hinterding
The accompanying piece of art is the most intriguing. The photographs were taken using Kilian photography which shows the aura of living structures. A low frequency recording reveals unusual sounds from the celestial and solar activity over the vineyard.
Ten tables make up the food and wine tasting area. The lights above are representative of grapes hanging in the vineyards off the vines. Reclaimed timber makes up the tables of eight with spade chairs, inspired by a milk maid’s stool with a spade in the back. The raw aluminium material is cold to evoke the sensation of sitting in a cellar-like environment.
The famous Penfolds Block 42
The experience ends with an optional food and wine tasting. There is a choice of 4 x 75 ml glass from each block ($35) or wine by the glass starting at $11.
Bracket 4, the Regional, consists of a bold and fruity 2010 Penfolds Bin 23 Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir, the lighter bodied 2010 Penfolds Cellar Reserve McLaren Vale Tempranillo (lighter bodied), 2007 Penfolds Cellar Reserve Barossa Valley Sangiovese and the favourite, the 2010 Penfolds Bin 138 Barossa Valley Grenache Shiraz Mouvedre.
The food menu is also paired to each of the brackets though you can order individual dishes. Executive Chef Jock Zonfrillo of the Magill Estate Restaurant and Head Chef Shannon Fleming apply their creative talents to bring together an innovative menu using native Australian produce.
(click on the photo to navigate through the food gallery below)
The philosophy is to recreate Australian cuisine with an emphasis on sustainable produce and native Australian food – 99% of the produce comes from Australia. Indigenous ingredients such as Gubinge, a stone fruit from the Western Kimberly, Julungin and Quandong feature in the menu. This is Australian cuisine without the “modern” prefix that defines it as French-based with a touch of Asian flavours, and as such, it is as much a discovery as an education when it comes to the flavours and textures in the dishes.
THE BLOCKS is a perfectly executed experience that evokes all senses, an art concept designed to stimulate the mind and further educate the palate. The temporary exhibition runs in Sydney until 5 April 2012 before it moves to Melbourne and tours the world.
Gourmantic visited the BLOCKS on two occasions and dined at the restaurant on a subsequent visit as a media guest.
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