Villa Maria founder Fistonich awarded knighthood

25 August, 2009

New Zealand wine industry legend George Fistonich has become Sir George after being awarded a knighthood.

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.


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