Hand made wines - hands from London, grapes from Hvar
With a career in wine spanning over 25 years, Londoner, Jo Ahearne MW has worked with iconic wineries and retail environments around the globe. She entered the wine trade in the early 1990s with Oddbins in Central London and after two years went to Australia to work a vintage for Charles Melton, with his iconic Nine Popes and Rose of Virginia wines in the Barossa Valley. Following this she enrolled on a winemaking degree at Charles Sturt University in Australia, whilst also working at Pipers Brook, Bailey's of Glenrowan, Leasingham and Tintara wineries.
On graduation, Jo worked as a flying winemaker in Spain and France, returned to the winemaking team at Charles Melton and then spent four years making the global brand Jacob’s Creek. In 2004, Jo moved back to the UK to blend wines for high end supermarket, Marks & Spencer. She travelled the world working with wineries and winemakers to craft individual blends, gaining a raft of trophies for her blends as well as for the company in general. She passed the notoriously difficult Master of Wine qualification in 2008.
After leaving the iconic M & S, Jo moved on to take the position of Head of Wine and Spirits buying for the equally iconic but luxury retailer Harrods of London. Eventually the call to return to winemaking became too strong and she took the next step as an independent winemaking consultant working in France, Spain, Italy, Hungary and Macedonia.
In 2014 Jo established her own winery on Hvar gaining international recognition for her wines based on Dalmatian grape varieties.
• Top 5 Croatian Wines Saša Špiranec – Ahearne Rosina 2015
• Top 10 Balkan Wines Vino.rs – Ahearne Rosina 2015
• Top 10 Croatian Wines Kult Plave Kamenice –Ahearne Wild Skins 2016
• 93 points Kult Plave Kamenice – Ahearne Pošip 2016
• Top 12 Balkan Reds Decanter Magazine 2019 - Ahearne South Side Plavac Mali 2014
• Expert’s Choice Decanter Magazine 2019 – Ahearne Vino Rosina 2017
• Financial Times Croatian Wine best producers list 2019 – Ahearne Posip and Plavac Mali
Ahearne Vino produces four wines - a rosé, Rosina, two whites (Pošip and a maceration wine, Wild Skins) and a barrique-aged Plavac Mali, South Side.
For Rosina Jo looked to her experience in Australia with Rose of Virginia and Provence establishing the Mirabeau brand. She wanted to produce a serious rosé; gastronomic with structure and the ability withstand some ageing. Her search for spine, acidity and structure led her to the nearly extinct local grape variety Darnekuša to make her rosé, named Rosina after her mother. These grapes come from the very highest part of the island under the cross of Sv. Nikola. It's all about the more sophisticated flavours of rhubarb, red cherries and raspberries rather than the normal sweet strawberry background of rosé. The wine is fermented with natural yeast and kept sur lie for 9 months.
The Pošip is grown on the island of Korčula. Part of the vineyard is fermented on skins with natural yeasts and the rest is hyper-oxidised to ensure any bitter phenolics fall out in fermentation (also done with natural yeast). The vineyard is picked in three stages to ensure that all the flavours of Pošip can be seen in the wine - from lime and lemon to white peach and quince and then finally the tropical guava and pineapple. The rich lees are stirred into the wine throughout the 9 months that Jo keeps the wine sur lie.
Wild Skins is the white wine Ahearne Vino makes that uses local varieties macerated on skins with no added yeast or sulphur. The Bogdanuša and Kuć are grown on the north side of the island on the rich, red soil of the Arger while the Pošip is grown on Korčula. Each variety is fermented separately on its skins with wild yeast and kept sur lie for 9 months. Some grapes are kept on skins for 340 days, others 10 or 20 days. It really depends on the flavour and structure as the ferment takes place. As with alcoholic fermentation, Jo allows the natural malolactic bacteria to soften the wine and a small amount of sulphur is added just before bottling to protect the wines - as has been the custom since Roman times.
The Ahearne Vino Plavac Mali South Side is matured in mainly French barrels which give a delicate, floral note to a wine. The tannins in Plavac Mali are notoriously fierce but Jo thinks it is all about the careful choice of vineyard. Full sunlight, free-draining soil and old vines that do not over produce, provide grapes that have good acidity (for Plavac), ripe, softer tannins and great concentration. Jo ferments the red grapes in open fermenters and literally pushes the skins into the juice of the Plavac by hand. Each plunge gives a sense of what is happening. The aromas and textures from this visceral type of winemaking gives a more connected view of the fermentation process.
The Ahearne Winery is in the small hilltop village of Vrisnik and Jo can be contacted on 00385
Rose wine - Rosina
White wine - Pošip
Maceration wine - Wild Skins
Barrique - Plavac Mali