New Zealand wine industry legend George Fistonich has become Sir George after being awarded a knighthood.
Receiving his Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit award from New Zealand’s governor general on August 14, Sir George – owner and managing director of New Zealand’s most awarded winery, Villa Maria – became the first person ever to be acknowledged for services to the New Zealand wine industry.
While commemorating the occasion dressed in the traditional apparel of a town crier, Villa Maria export manager Ian Clark listed some of Sir George’s achievements at Villa Maria, including:
First to have grapes grown under contract
First to pay for grapes on a quality and not quantity basis
First to produce Reserve wines
First company to promote wine and food education with the formation of the “Living with Wine Club” and the close association with Tonys Restaurant chain
First to obtain a vineyard restaurant licence, the forerunner to wine tourism in New Zealand
First to employ female sales representatives in the liquor industry
First to promote public owned vineyard companies – Seddon in 1992 followed by Terra Vitae in 1998
First major winery in the world to embrace screwcap technology
Pioneered the employment of a full time viticulturist
Nominated in 3 successive years for International Wine Personality of the Year
NBR 2004 New Zealander of the Year
2005 New Zealand Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year
“It’s no wonder we have been New Zealand’s most awarded wine company for the past 30 years,” added Clark.
In keeping with his typically understated style, Sir George Fistonich will still be known and addressed by friends, family and staff as George.