November 20, 2018 – Jo Ahearne is the first Master of Wine to make wine in Croatia, and now her indigenous Hvar wines are en route to Japan.
I don’t even dare ask how she did it.
Croatian bureaucracy has featured a lot on TCN in recent weeks, as we have been highlighting some of the absurdities of life here, as well as issues foreigners are experiencing trying to get residence permits. But every once in a while, there is a heartwarming tale of success against all the odds, and this one is really worth celebrating.
I first met Jo Ahearne MW 4-5 years ago at the Dalmacija Wine Expo trade fair, as we ended up sitting on the back row of Sasa Spiranec’s excellent masterclass of the 2011 Plavac Mali vintage. Soon after, Jo Ahearne made the pioneering decision to move to the island of Hvar to make wines from the various indigenous grapes of the island, kicking off with a delightful rose from the Darnekusa grape, Rosina.
And while it didn’t take Ahearne long to become noticed in the world of wine in Croatia, scoring 93/100 with her first ever Posip, and having her Wild Skins included in the best ten wines in Croatia last year, the more fascinating story for me was how she managed to navigate the bureaucracy and wine world in rural Croatia, and still succeed.
It was a brave move indeed to move to a country with not a word of the language and head to live on an island, and not even one of the main centres of population. All that would have been manageable, without the additional joys of Croatian paperwork, from permits to say to getting the right labels. Many is the time over the last few years that Jo and I have swapped frustrations over the crazy bureaucracy here over a beer. But while others gave up, Jo Ahearne kept on going strong. I truly hope she starts a wine blog about her adventures here – it would make fascinating and very entertaining reading. For all the problems, Jo has come across helpful officials on her journey who have helped enormously.
Getting the wine into the bottle is one huge milestone, getting it to the market yet one more, but actually managing to negotiate the paperwork for export to Japan (she is shipping Rosina, Plavac and Wild Skins) from her tiny Hvar winery in the village of Vrisnik is a phenomenal achievement, perhaps one that can only be fully appreciated by residents of the madhouse we know as The Beautiful Croatia. In addition to Australia next, exports to USA, Belgium, Germany, Slavonia, Serbia and UK will follow in early 2019.
Congratulations, Jo, very impressive on so many levels. And I do encourage you to check out Ahearne Wines and the sale and tasting options at Ahearne Vino on Hvar – a fantastic experience. You can follow Jo Ahearne’s wine adventure in Croatia on the Ahearne Vino Facebook page.