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Yarra Valley, part 1
The wines
of Tony Jordan at Domaine Chandon/Green Point, Yarra Valley, Australia

'Green Point', Maroondah Hwy, Coldstream, VIC  3770 
03 9738 9200   Fax : 03 9738 9241  
E-mail : cellardoor@domainechandon.com.au
Website: http://www.greenpointwines.com.au

The view from Chandon's restuarant and tasting room

Dr Tony Jordan is currently Chief Executive Officer of three of the big names in Australian/New Zealand wine: Cape Mentelle (Western Australia), Cloudy Bay (Marlborough, NZ) and Domaine Chandon (in the Yarra Valley, which he established for Moët et Chandon in 1986). In March 2006 he kindly hosted me for a few days as I explored the Yarra.

Tony (pictured right) completed a PhD at Sydney University in Chemical Physics. He is officially a smart guy. This was then followed with 18 months working as a postdoctoral researcher at University College, London. The funding for this position dried up so he returned back to Australia, where he took a job as a patent attorney in Sydney. ‘It was an interesting era’, he recalls, ‘because there were zero people with high technical qualifications in the industry’. However, Tony hated sitting in a Pitt Street office. ‘I was looking at the job ads in universities, and one came up at Riverina College (now Charles Sturt Univesity)—a lectureship for Physical Chemistry and Wine Science’. Tony describes himself as a ‘wine nutter’ at the time—this was in 1974—and so he applied for, and landed, the job. The course of his life had changed.

Once he arrived at Riverina College, Tony developed a course for oenology together with Don Lester (now viticultural director at Pernod Ricard Orlando), because there was a pent up need in Australia for people who’d got into the wine industry to get some science. But Tony admits that ‘our students knew more than we did’. So one of their first moves was to get an experienced lecturer in oenology, and so Hardy’s Chied Winemaker, a Mr Brian Croser, was hired. Tony recalls that Croser was ‘going somewhere’, and that this was the next step for him.  

One of the new ways of thinking that emerged from Riverina at this time was that the vineyards produce fruit flavour, and the winemaking should aim to capture this flavour. At the time winemakers just thought, ‘there’s a vineyard out there that grows grapes’, and the predominant form of vineyard management was mushroom flop viticulture (where the canopy grows unsupported on a single wire, descending either side under its own weight). The next 10 years led to some huge changes in what went on in Australian viticulture and winemaking.

In 1977 Tony took off for a sabbatical with Helmut Becker at Geisenheim. Becker put Tony through all the research institutes and best wineries. ‘He did me a huge favour’. On his return, he found out that Croser was leaving. He’d been developing Petaluma (first vintage 1976) and had found the money through his network of associates (including Len Evans and Peter Fox) to strike out on his own. Jordan carried on lecturing oenology, but then in 1978, together with Brian, Tony formed a consulting company called Oenotech.

For the first year, there was no income and just one client. But then things took off, and Tony spent the next decade consulting widely.

The winery at Chandon

Chandon came along in 1986, when Tony was approached by Moët, via James Halliday. His Oenotech partner Croser wasn’t able to work for Moët Hennessy, however, because one of Petaluma’s backers was Bollinger, a competitor. Tony began working for Moët as MD of Domaine Chandon in 1987/88. With the exception of a brief, rather ill-fated spell with Wirra Wirra, he’s been there since, and was made CEO of Cape Mentelle, Domaine Chandon and Cloudy Bay in 2003.

Sparkling wine is the focus of Chandon, but they also make some very smart still wines.
The site for Chandon is in the middle of the original Yarra viticultural area of the 1850s. Tony Jordan looked at lots of areas for Moët to establish their operation in, but in the end they chose the Yarra. Jordan’s experience is that the Yarra has more diverse terroirs than expected across the valley. There’s a month’s difference in ripening from one end of the valley to the other.

For sparkling wines Jordan is looking for grapes which when tasted have just lost their greenness and have the first onset of fruitiness. It’s not good enough simply to pick grapes really early in order to get the high acidity, because then you’ll have greenness. The grapes need to reach a point of physiological ripeness that occurs alongside high acidity. So far just 2000 has been a non-vintage year: this was because it was a warm year and there was too much fruit flavour.

Jordan is looking for ‘reminders’ of Champagne in terms of flavour, particularly in the structural sense, working at a low level of ripeness. At the edge of ‘no longer green’, when the grapes are picked, he finds large differences in flavour development between the warmer sites on the valley floor, and the Strathbogie vineyards at 600 metres. The cooler sites tend to give more desirable base wines. ‘If you get your picking right, you can make ultrapremium sparkling wines’, says Jordan. He picks at 10.5–11.5 Baume. In Australia, they are not allowed to chaptalize: the only legal point for addition of sugar is at tirage. 

Go to part 2, the wines

Yarra series:

Wines tasted 03/06
Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

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