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Aaron Fenwick Château Comme Ci, Comme Ça

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Aaron Fenwick’s Château Comme Ci, Comme Ça label is all about fun approachability, lo-fi wines made to be light on their feet, textural and engagingly drinkable. Working with semillon, chardonnay, pinot gris and merlot, he sources grapes from the Adelaide Hills – where he also co-owns The Summertown Aristologist. Working with growers who farm organically (though not all certified), he picks early to retain crunchy freshness, includes plenty of skin contact on the whites, building texture and flavour, and takes the reds off skins somewhat quickly to make zippy and poised expressions.

Aaron Fenwick’s path to wine has come via restaurants, having made his name in the front of house at Magill Estate, Orana and Blackwood, before opening Adelaide Hills institution The Summertown Aristologist with Jasper Button (Commune of Buttons) and Anton van Klopper (Lucy Margaux). The Aristologist has since become a mecca for lo-fi and natural wine lovers, with some of the most highly regarded food in the Hills, largely made from produce from their own organic garden.

In 2017, Fenwick joined his partners in making wines, getting hold of a parcel of grapes and making his first wines under the Château Comme Ci, Comme Ça label. “I am fortunate to have two great partners,” he says. “So, with some encouragement and support from them, and also a direct outlet to sell the wine, I thought it couldn’t go that wrong. I have been making more wine every year since.”

“I’m purely trying to make wine that I love to drink: clean chardonnay, skin-contact white and grey grapes, and light macerated reds that are from grapes that are farmed organically and have absolutely nothing else added or taken away. I like to make fun wines to drink with friends, nothing too serious.”

The first wines, made at Van Klopper’s winery, were released in 2018. “Château Comme Ci, Comme Ça is about making drinkable grape juice,” says Fenwick. “It might not be ‘great wine’, but it’s definitely not shit wine. I’m purely trying to make wine that I love to drink: clean chardonnay, skin-contact white and grey grapes, and light macerated reds that are from grapes that are farmed organically and have absolutely nothing else added or taken away. I like to make fun wines to drink with friends, nothing too serious.”

While Fenwick’s angle sounds casual, his direction is very purposeful. “I am very much fully focused on winemaking and farming grapes at Anton’s farm. We have planted 6,000 vines in the last two years on his property in Basket Range. We obviously haven’t yet had a harvest from them, but we are excited to see how the varieties are going to grow given we’ve planted everything to be bush vines. Eventually, there will be another range of wines that will be made from those grapes.”

Hardly a Hills staple, Fenwick has made somewhat of a name for himself with semillon. From the Magpie Springs Vineyard, his is a skin-contact style, with half destemmed and left on skins for a few days and half fermented as whole bunches, and with a very modest alcohol just into double digits. That lightness is a general feature of the wines, with a merlot hovering around 10 degrees (12.5% being the top of the register for the other wines), which has seen a day or two of skin contact before being pressed off to make a super-light and crunchy expression. He also bottles an assembly of all the leesy leftovers after racking the other wines to bottle – an eclectic and textural blend of semillon, chardonnay, pinot gris and merlot.

Fenwick’s move to the Hills has changed his course, with what he describes as a new-found freedom in growing grapes and making wines, to be “free to work as bloody hard as possible most days, but to also take some days off and not feel guilty that work isn’t getting done.

“I moved up to the Adelaide hills to open The Summertown Aristologist, and I had never felt more at home in South Australia before. Having the restaurant become a hub for the natural wine community in the hills and also the wine community in general, it just made sense and I couldn’t imagine making wine anywhere else.”