“This is where the journey starts” begins the dapper sommelier, referring to the meticulously scattered design in the vast warehouse. Channelling Willy Wonka on a tour of mind-boggling creations, our enthusiastic guide leads us through the sensory wonderland of scented sculptures and mysterious art at THE BLOCKS
Catering to Gen Y’s notoriously short attention span and penchant for the new, pop ups venues continue to address our insatiable quest for novelty, quality and entertainment. From the long-standing Bucket List that still draws a crowd, to Bizarre Bazaar’s laneway markets, each seems to be more innovative then the last. The allure of limited time, perceived exclusivity and reliance on word of mouth combine to create a recipe for success that challenges the long-held dominance of permanent venues. 

Open in Sydney for only three weeks before embarking on a world tour, the collaboration between Penfolds and London’s Studio Toogood is an inspired example of a creative installation. Imploring us to disregard the snobbery associated with wine and follow our intuition, the team has invited Australian artists, perfumers and sculptures to create wine inspired experiences for visitors. 
Starting with a virtual number 1 that is a fragment of light projected onto the wooden floor, we smell a sculpture, enjoy the art works and assess our instinctive reaction to both. Each category of art and smell has been derived from the words usually associated with particular brackets of wine, and are intended to help us disregard preconceived notions of wine. 
Our journey through the senses is educational and fun, stretching our minds laterally to fuse art, wine and food (not too much of a struggle really). Once we’ve picked our favourites, the sommelier reveals the corresponding Penfolds Bin and Luxury wines that sit behind them. We choose 1. Aromatic Whites and 4. Regional Reds, and sit down for a tasting. At $35 for 4 x 75ml glasses, we’ve discovered the grape version of Wonka’s chocolate river paradise, and start to appreciate the subtle differences between the blends. 

Despite the transient nature of the venue, no detail has been overlooked. From Riedel crystal wine glasses to Mud Australia porcelain plates, we sit under canopies of illuminated glass grapes on chairs hand cast from raw aluminium specifically for the event. While Sydney’s last undeveloped historic wharf building will feel empty when THE BLOCKS departs for Melbourne on 4 May, Penfolds and Studio Toogood have further raised the bar (literally) for pop up innovation. 

Lifeafterfive* was a guest of THE BLOCKS and enjoyed a free tasting bracket worth $35.

The Blocks
16th March-5th April
Pier 2/3 13 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay
Wed-Fri 4pm-11pm and Sat-Sun 1pm-11pm


  1. Camilla FrumarApril 05, 2012

    ooh this is right next to my office - thanks! almost missed it x