THE BLOCKS: Penfolds Wine, Restaurant & Studio Toogood, Sydney

Sydney, prepare yourself for a sensory experience.

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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.

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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.

The BLOCKS: Penfolds Art and Wine

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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With jagged edges or scissor-like teeth resembling diamond shapes that blend into one, Totem Number 3 represents the Varietal Blends.

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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.

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Block Number 4 represents the Regional, different shapes and areas that come together into one piece.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Bracket 4

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)

Pumpkin and beef canapé
Pumpkin and beef
Vegetable canapé
Vegetable canapé
Head Chef Shannon Fleming
Head Chef Shannon Fleming
Gubinge, stone fruit from W Kimberly, marinated in mountain pepper, aniseed myrtle, garlic & lemon aspen
Prawn crackers made of marron and dusted with lemon myrtle salt
Prawn crackers
Penfolds Chardonnay, Cellar Reserve
Penfolds Chardonnay, Cellar Reserve
Saltbush and lamb, greens sweated in Suffolk lamb fat
Saltbush and lamb
Mulloway, carpaccio style with riberries and lemon aspen
Mulloway with riberries and lemon aspen
Penfolds St Henri Shiraz, one of oldest Penfolds brands
Penfolds St Henri Shiraz
Berkshire prosciutto made from 6 week old yoghurt fed Berkshire pigs raised by Magill Estate
Berkshire prosciutto
Native pepper crab with mountain pepper leaf sauce & bushland grass
Native pepper crab
Wax seal on folders / dishes
Wax seal
Mayura Station Full-blood Wagyu Beef, 9+ scotch fillet charred, shaved thin with Tasmanian truffle vinaigrette
Wagyu Beef and black truffle
"Money bags"
Money bags
Potato confit in a little pork fat with native Australia bush tomato, seed parsley, native thyme
Potato and pork
Grandfather Tawny Port, blend of Shiraz, Grenache, Mouvedre, min age 20 yrs
Penfolds Grandfather Tawny Port
Chocolate ganache, native currants, cinnamon myrtle doughnut
Chocolate, currants, cinnamon myrtle doughnut
Buddha's hand, with yoghurt mousse, riberries and Davidson plum
Buddha's hand
Buddha's hand fruit
Buddha's hand fruit
Julungin tea jelly, salted caramel, quinoa puffed and rolled in carob powder, lemon aspen snow
Julungin, caramel, quinoa, lemon aspen snow
Quandong soufflé, native stone fruit with quandong sugar on top
Quandong soufflé
Michael Murphy, Aaron Fenwick , Warwick Hickling, Shannon Fleming, Joshua Picken
The team
The wines
The wines
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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: Penfolds Art and Wine

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.

Pier 2/3, 13 Hickson Road
Walsh Bay NSW 2000
16 March to 5 April
Wed-Fri 4 pm – 11 pm,
Sat-Sun 1 – 11 pm


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About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List since 2013, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.


  • interesting! Well, i definitely won’t get there during its Sydney tour, so i’m hoping it makes its way to Europe as part if the world tour. I just took a look at their site and can’t find anything about a tour schedule but didn’t see anything. Did they mention if they have the schedule already for it?

  • What a fabulous and exciting concept Penfolds have chosen to promote their wines.I love the idea of extending the experience using the blocks and art.Hope the rest of the world loves it too!

  • Went along to this last week and it was quite the experience. Had a great time getting involved in the sculptures as well as the drink and amazingly presented food.

  • What an evening! The atmosphere was fantastic, there were loads of people at the venue which made it feel so exciting. The concept of the wood representing the wine along with the artwork was definitely a conversation starter. The food was fantastic, and although the portions could have been a little bigger none of us left feeling like we could have eaten more. The lamb flavored saltbush was definitely a highlight for me, it was so flavorsome whilst being so light. There was a good selection of food I could eat (gluten and lactose free) and although we had to wait a while for a table, we were given complimentary cocktails and wine while we waited. A fantastic evening.

  • Wow – what a fantastic night out. The venue was magical, service was great and couldn’t fault the food or wine. Sitting in the doorway looking up at the bridge was special too.
    We would love to go to more events like this. Thank you to everyone involved.