Meet the Only Master of Wine Tasting Experience in Croatia: Jo Ahearne MW

Total Croatia News

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July 9, 2019 – The Croatian wine scene welcomed its first resident Master of Wine in 2014, as Jo Ahearne MW moved from London to Hvar. Since then her wines from Hvar grape varieties have been a hit nationally and internationally. Here is how you can taste them. 

It’s been just under five years since Australian-trained winemaker and Master of Wine Jo Ahearne first came to Hvar to start her eponymous winery Ahearne Vino. And what a five years it’s been – her Plavac Mali, ‘South Side’, was voted number five in Decanter magazine’s top Balkan red wines; her rosé, Rosina (named after her mother), was voted both in the top five influential Croatian wines by Saša Špiranec and expert’s tip in Decanter magazine; her amber wine, Wild Skins, awarded 90 points by Decanter magazine and voted in the top ten Croatian wines by Kult Plave Kamenice  while the same publication awarded her Pošip 93 points. 

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Now ensconced in the old co-operative building in the beautiful hilltop village of Vrisnik with four wines under the Ahearne Vino banner, Jo has gone from strength to strength. Exporting Croatian wine to seven countries (with two more coming up soon), she has now prepared the winery to receive visitors this summer. So I thought it was time for the man who was responsible for introducing her to the island of Hvar to see what all the fuss was and go and enjoy one of her in-depth ‘geek tastings’. 

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I’d spoken to Sarah Jane Begonja from Chasing the Donkey blog about the Villa tasting Jo had done in Zadar a few months back and laughed when she’d told me one of the guests hadn’t invited his girlfriend because he ‘didn’t realise how much fun it’d be’. I guess many people would assume a tasting held by an MW (there are more astronauts than Masters of Wine) would be all wordy and worthy with at least one test paper at the end!

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I can certainly concur – Jo has a great capacity to educate people about food and wine by using simple language that normal people can relate to and understand. And if you want to talk football and West Ham United, you have come to the right winery. 

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(Jo in Kyoto on her recent tour of Japan and Australia – she exports her Hvar wines to both countries)

But not to fear, the tasting is full of humour with stories from Jo’s time in Croatia and from her work around the world. We tasted wine from her barrels and tanks while she explained where the grapes came from and how everything is made. She made it seem a lot more straightforward than it probably is! We then moved outside to grab a chair, look at the amazing view of the Hvar mountains and taste through her bottled wines. 

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(Jo relaxing with Split expats last summer after conducting a tasting on board)

Of course, Jo does less in-depth tastings of just her bottled wines and, in recognition that some people just don’t want to leave the pool, she brings the tasting to your villa or yacht. But for those who want to really get to grips with the island and its wines she has a four-wheel drive vineyard tour, tasting and lunch – after that you might even be inspired to start the Master of Wine journey yourself……

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(Jo conducting one of her private villa tastings on Hvar)

And so to the tasting in her winery in Vrisnik, which has a lovely rustic feel, as well as divine mountain views. Vrisnik is an inland village about 3km from Jelsa and 7km from Stari Grad. An authentic and quiet Dalmatian village where you can taste great wines made from Hvar grape varieties crafted by hands from London. All fab. In order to be a bit more useful to the reader, I asked Jo to tell us a little about her wines:

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(Photo credit Mirko Crncevic)

Rosina – made from Darnekuša,  a nearly extinct variety which brings elegance, freshness and complexity to rosé.  Raspberry and cherry flavours with a great structure and texture from 8 months lees contact.

Wild Skins – fermenting local varieties on skins brings more flavour and structure than would normally exist. Quince and pear with a hint of toast and honey. Fresh but textured and complex. 

South Side Plavac Mali – using only fruit from the best sites on the steep, southern hills, this wine is more elegant and perfumed than many Plavac Mali. Relying on gentle, hand extraction and ageing in refined, low key French oak barrels for 18 Months the South Side has supple tannins with raspberry, plum flavours and a hint of chocolate and the aromas of hillside herbs. 

Pošip – lemon and white peach with an underlying toasty note from an element of barrel fermentation in old French barrique. Smooth texture from 9 month sur lie and a gentle kick of spice from a little skin contact.

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A really fun, educational and completely unsnobbish wine tasting experience from the only Master of Wine in Croatia. 

You can contact Jo on [email protected] or 00385 917664515 or follow Ahearne Vino on Facebook





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