Villa Maria Estate: Celebrating 50 years of Exceptional Winemaking
Villa Maria Estate is New Zealand's most awarded winery and this year marks 50 years since the first vintage of Villa Maria wine was bottled by founder and owner Sir George Fistonich.
In 1961, at just 21 years of age, George leased five acres of land from his father in Mangere, Auckland and started off with just an acre of vines. He harvested his first grapes in 1962 and made his first wine under the name Villa Maria.
Throughout the 1960's Villa Maria was a one-man band, with George's wife, Gail, supporting him in his venture. He made dry red and white wines, sourcing grapes from the greater Auckland regions. In the early 1970s he started to employ staff and the company began to expand rapidly.
Today, Villa Maria employs more than 250 permanent staff and exports wine to over 50 countries worldwide. The company has two state-of-the-art winery facilities in Auckland and Marlborough.
Sir George Fistonich has spent five decades at the forefront of New Zealand's wine industry that he helped develop. As an icon of the industry, Villa Maria is known for its bold and industry-changing moves such as moving to 100% screwcap through to the emphasis on sustainable practices in every area of the company.
Villa Maria Estate's Milestones:
*1962: Villa Maria's first vintage
*Late 60s: Villa Maria's Wine Club was established to educate consumers in wine & food matching
*Early 70s: Villa Maria employed first staff
*Early 80s Villa Maria instigated the first grape grower bonus system where grapes were paid for based on quality and not on quantity
*1988: Export commenced
*1995: Villa Maria became an accredited member of Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ)
*2000: Marlborough winery opened
*2001: Villa Maria decided to become a cork-free zone and to move to 100% screwcaps
*2005: Auckland winery & vineyard park opened
*2009: George Fistonich received the country's first knighthood for his services to the New Zealand wine industry
*2012: Villa Maria Estate celebrates 50 vintages of exceptional winemaking