Vale Dr Tony Jordan OAM

Former chief executive of Domaine Chandon Dr Tony Jordan OAM has died following a short battle with mesothelioma.

Jordan’s career in the wine industry began when he took up a role as lecturer at Riverina College, now Charles Sturt University, in the early 1970s. With a background in physical chemistry, he subsequently helped establish a wine science course at the institution which saw the hiring of experienced winemaker Brian Croser as a lecturer.

Jordan and Croser went on to establish a winemaking consultancy, Oenotec, in 1978.

“He and I had always got on pretty well,” Jordan told the Wine & Viticulture Journal in 2012. “Brian could see the rapid expansion of the industry and the coming need for technical knowledge and a contemporary winemaking approach for new wineries.

“In those days we were young enough to say, ‘yeah, that sounds like a great idea – let’s do it! But, of course, for the first year we didn’t earn a penny but that was okay because pretty soon it all came together.

“What Brian and I offered was the  forefront of modern winemaking with some solid technical backing to it,” Jordan said.

He and Croser consulted widely for the next decade before Jordan was approached by French Champagne producer Moet Hennessy, via wine writer James Halliday, in the mid 1980s to find and build a world class Australian sparkling wine facility.

“When Moet Hennessy approached me it was one of 30 consultancies I had at the time, and James Halliday recommended us,” Jordan recalled to the Wine & Viticulture Journal.

“The brief was wide: they said they’d like to set up a sparkling wine facility in Australia. They had precedents in Argentina and California, so they knew what they were doing.

“They saw Australia in the mid ‘80s was ready to start producing and appreciating serious, higher-priced sparkling wine.

“They gave me an open brief to start something in Australia so I looked in various places like SA, Tasmania, Victoria and even contemplated New Zealand.”

But it was a site at Coldstream, in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, which was ultimately chosen for the new venture which would become known as Domaine Chandon. Moet Hennessy then asked Jordan if he would be interested in being Domain Chandon’s managing director which he accepted in 1987.

Through his employment with Moet Hennessy, Jordan also became a consultant for the group’s other global winery operations, and in 2000 he became chief executive of Domaine Chandon and its other houses Cape Mentelle and Cloudy Bay.

In mid-2008, after 21 years with Moet Hennesy, Jordan reactivated his Oenotec consultancy after effectively putting it on ice while with the group. He also established SpearGully, a venture he established in the Yarra Valley with his wife Michele.

During his career Jordan chaired Australian wine shows and judged at shows internationally. He is a former president of the Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology and the Yarra Valley Wine Growers Association, and was a board member of the Wine Australia Corporation for six years.

Jordan’s contribution to the Australian wine industry was honoured in June this year by three Australian grape and wine organisations.

He was awarded Life Membership of the Australian Wine Industry by Australian Grape & Wine;  Wine Australia inaugurated the Dr Tony Jordan OAM Award, an annual award for the most outstanding Wine Australia PhD scholarship applicant; and the Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology (ASVO) announced Jordan as a new Fellow of the Society for his outstanding and meritorious contribution to the Australian grape and wine industry and to the ASVO.

At the time the Dr Tony Jordan OAM Award was announced, Jordan’s Oenotec co-founder Brian Croser said, “From my intimate observations, Tony’s influence over the current generation of winemakers, his contribution to the applied technology and the development of rational practice in small and medium wineries is unparalleled.”

James Halliday said: “Tony Jordan has made a unique contribution to the Yarra Valley dating back prior to 1984-85 when he taught me how to make Chardonnay. [He was] legendary for his fearsome intelligence that suffered fools badly.”

“The Australian wine community is saddened by the news of Tony Jordan’s death and our deepest sympathies are extended to Michele and to Tony’s family, colleagues in the Yarra Valley and his many friends around the country and the globe,” said Wine Australia chair Brian Walsh.

“Tony has been one of those constants across the Australian wine landscape over many decades and I had the privilege of serving with him on the board of (the old) Wine Australia, where I observed first-hand his selfless contributions to regions, wine tourism, wine exports and fine wine in general.

“Others can talk more deeply than I about his wider and significant contribution to grape and wine research, education and mentoring – and the business of wine – such was the breadth of his intellect and engagement.

“Tony’s great contribution and influence has been positively and widely felt and he has truly left an enduring legacy for us all,” Walsh’s said.

‘The Australian wine industry has lost a distinguished advocate and leader,” said Sandy Clark, chair of Australian Grape and Wine Incorporated.  “Tony’s contribution to the Australian wine industry has been immense, and our thoughts and heartfelt sympathy are for his wife Michele and their family.”

“While not knowing Tony Jordan well as young winemakers, we were all in awe of he and Brian Croser,” said Leanne De Bortoli and Steve Weber from De Bortoli Wines. “Their influence on modern Australian winemaking, technical advances, wine style etc were inspiring.

“We have all enjoyed chatting to Tony about wine and one thing we find special is his keen interest in the future, different winemaking approaches, young people, new varieties, even mixers for sparkling wine. The guy is seriously interested in all aspects of the industry.”

“For the last 30 years, Dr Tony Jordan has influenced and impacted not only our region but nearly every other wine region domestically and abroad,” said Yarra Valley Wine Growers Association president Franco D’Anna in May this year when Jordan was inducted onto the association’s honour board.

“In a time when our association was run by very few, Tony installed committees and ran our association with professionalism. His term is characterised by his work ethic.

“I remember when I first became president, I asked our then CEO Richard Howden how often Tony would speak to him. Richard’s reply was along the lines of Tony wasn’t a ‘normal’ president, it was daily if not a few times a day. Such was his dedication to our association.

“Tony emphasised that we shouldn’t be known as a commercial mass-produced winemaking country but to be known for our people, our vineyards and our regions. His belief was this would realign our image of quality.

“He understood where we needed to go as an industry and was willing to donate his time and effort for the greater good of the Australian wine industry,” D’Anna said.

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