My friendship with Dr Tony Jordan dates back years before I moved to Melbourne in 1983. I’m reasonably sure that it was in ’82 when Brokenwood (I was one of its founders) bowed to the inevitable and decided it needed a (real) winemaker, specifically one with a track record of making chardonnay, semillon an afterthought. I knew Brian Croser well, given Oenotec’s place as the best consulting group in Australia, and Tony Jordan was his partner in that business. It was Tony who went on the selection search, and his nomination of Iain Riggs was critical in turning Brokenwood from a weekend plaything to one of Australia’s most successful and not-so-small wineries.
I had been on a lengthy visit to France and Europe in ’85, which started with a week-long stay in Champagne. On the day Suzanne (my wife) and I were leaving Champagne, I received a phone call from Moet & Chandon asking us to have lunch with the most senior executives of the Moet-Hennessy division of LVMH. Pleasantries to one side, they came to the point: if Moet & Chandon was to invest in a greenfield vineyard and winery of significant size in Australia, was the Yarra Valley the best region for that investment? There was only one answer: yes.
By the time I arrived home in the Yarra Valley, the decision had been ratified by the board of Moet & Chandon, and I was requested to form a subsidiary company, which I did. For some time, I was the sole director, the first assignment to headhunt someone with a high-level winemaking track record, and the business experience to take control going forward.
I lost no time in asking Tony Jordan to begin the recruiting process. Only two days later, Tony indicated he would like to put his own name forward. I immediately sent a fax to Moet saying they had the best man in Australia for the job. My caretaker role was of scant importance, although for some months Tony established his office in what today is the Coldstream Hills cellar door. As I readied myself for the upcoming vintage of Coldstream Hills, I turned to Tony for assistance in making the chardonnay. I had no problem with pinot noir and the other red varieties (mostly cabernet sauvignon and merlot, but my one previous attempt to make chardonnay was decidedly unsuccessful).
When Coldstream Winemakers Limited was incorporated and secured a listing on the stock exchange, Tony Jordan (and British wine writer Hugh Johnson) were members of the board. Our lives intersecting once again. When Tony became technical director with oversight of all of Moet’s international wineries in California, Spain and Argentina, he was constantly on the road, working long hours, and when he ultimately decided the international travel was too demanding, he came home, assuming control of Domaine Chandon (now known as Chandon Australia) in the Yarra Valley.
There was one more challenge: to design a winery in China for Moet, including an attendant vineyard, the latter as challenging as the design of the winery. Being who he was, solutions were found, and the work completed. In all the years we knew each other, I cannot recall any situation leading to anger by Tony. Some people found his penetrating gaze discomforting, and he suffered fools badly. I had no problems with his direct approach and enjoyed his company. He was a man of formidable intelligence and work ethic – all involved in the world of fine wine will be the poorer for his passing.