Sir George Fistonich's Villa Maria named New Zealand Winery of the Year

Villa Maria Estate has been named New Zealand Winery of the Year by WINE Magazine in China. Six well respected wine personalities formed the judging panel for these awards including Debra Meiburg MW, Dennis Lin (wine writer), Ji Yang (wine writer & educator), Ronny Lau (wine judge), Bai Chang (wine judge) and Qi Shaoren (wine educator).

WINE Magazine established these awards to help consumers identify category leaders. New Zealand’s most awarded winery received the top award in the New Zealand category given their market share and influence in the Chinese wine market.

WINE Magazine is the first wine focused consumer publication in China with the aim to be the most authoritative professional magazine in this emerging market.

Villa Maria has exported to China since the inception of Summergate Fine Wines and Spirits in 2000 and was the first brand they carried. The 100% New Zealand owned company is placing a high degree of focus into the Chinese market, as it is their most rapidly growing export market. In 2010, Villa Maria appointed their first dedicated Asia Market Manager, Charlotte Read, and in 2011 they appointed their first China based employee reflecting their commitment to growing the presence of New Zealand wine and Villa Maria in this fast growing market.

Huge night for Sir George Fistonich's Villa Maria Estate

Twenty-five years and 60 trophies is the record held by Villa Maria announced at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards at the weekend. It was a special night for the company who received notable mention for the strong trophy history that they have at the awards. When these national wine awards began in 1987 Villa Maria received the very first Champion Wine of the Show for a Gisborne Chardonnay. On Saturday history was repeated when the iconic wine company was awarded the Champion Wine of the Show for a Chardonnay, this time for the Single Vineyard Keltern Chardonnay 2010.

Villa Maria Estate Founder and Managing Director Sir George Fistonich commented about the company’s success at these awards, “60 trophies over 25 years is an outstanding achievement and we are ecstatic. In terms of milestones we are clocking up the numbers; next year we’ll celebrate our 50th vintage, we’ve been New Zealand’s most awarded winery for over 30 years and in a personal milestone my wife and I have just celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary and a significant birthday for my wife Gail,” he said.

Villa Maria’s performance at the awards this year included four trophies:

Champion Wine of Show – Villa Maria Single Vineyard Keltern Chardonnay 2010 Champion Chardonnay – Villa Maria Single Vineyard Keltern Chardonnay 2010 Champion Sustainable Wine – Villa Maria Single Vineyard Keltern Chardonnay 2010 Champion Merlot – Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2009

The champion winning wine from Hawkes Bay has been gaining unprecedented success with an incredible 11 trophies to its name. It has won four Champion Wine of Show awards dominating not only the Chardonnay classes but the entire show at the New Zealand International Wine Show, Hawkes Bay A&P Wine Awards, Bragato Wine Awards and the Air New Zealand Wine Awards.

In addition to the Air New Zealand Wine Awards trophies, Villa Maria won a total of 16 gold medals across nine wine styles, being Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Verdelho, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, and dessert wine.

This year’s competition saw 1489 wines entered from ten of the country’s key wine growing regions.

New Zealand wine recognised on the world stage with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Villa Maria founder Sir George Fistonich

Sir George Fistonich, Owner and Managing Director of Villa Maria Estate, received the International Wine Challenge’s highest honour at last night’s glittering awards dinner where he accepted the esteemed Lifetime Achievement Award. Sir George joins an exclusive group of high profile figures from the wine world who have previously received this award, most recently including Peter Lehmann, Peter Lehmann Wines (2009) and Miguel Torres, Bodegas Torres (2010).

Sir George Fistonich founded Villa Maria Estate in Auckland in 1961. With vision and determination he has steered the company to a position where it has become New Zealand’s leading wine award winner, both locally and overseas. A pioneering figure in the New Zealand wine industry, Sir George has achieved many firsts, and his outstanding contributions were honoured in 2009 when he was knighted for his services to the New Zealand wine industry. Still entirely family-owned Villa Maria Estate is dedicated to the pursuit of making quality New Zealand wines, enjoyed by wine drinkers around the world.

Sir George commented, “I am incredibly honoured to accept this award. It is very humbling to be recognised by the wine industry for Villa Maria’s achievements. We’ve worked hard promoting our premium New Zealand wines to the world so it’s a great feeling to be among such an elite group of wine industry icons. I founded Villa Maria Estate nearly fifty years ago and feel very lucky to be part of an exciting and stimulating industry. It is the effort and dedication of the fantastic teams I have worked with, both past and present, that make Villa Maria and the wines that we produce the success that they are and I would like to thank every one of them for their commitment and passion.”

The International Wine Challenge Awards are the world’s most prestigious and influential wine awards. The 2011 ceremony took place at The Hilton Park Lane. The judging panel, chaired by Tim Atkin MW, Oz Clarke, Charles Metcalfe, Sam Harrop MW & Derek Smedley MW, chose to honour Sir George Fistonich with this accolade, which is bestowed annually on one senior industry leader for significant contributions to the wine industry internationally.

5 Chefs Serve Generously for Canterbury

A collaborative effort between five of Auckland’s top chefs and Villa Maria Estate has raised $100,000 for the Christchurch City Mission. What began as a desire to do something to help the people of Canterbury after the devastating February earthquake became a demonstration of solidarity and generosity from Villa Maria, those organising the event and those that attended.

Two hundred and ten guests paid $250 each for the five-course degustation matched with Villa Maria wines. Everyone involved from the front of house staff to the food suppliers donated their time or products for the event.

Participating chefs included: Des Harris – Clooney Michael Meredith – Merediths Mike van de Elzen – Molten Restaurant Sid Sahrawat – Sidart Restaurant Stephen Ward – O’Connell Street Bistro

The luncheon was hosted by Villa Maria. Kerre Woodham and John Hawkesby emceed the event where guests were wined and dined with live entertainment and with a series of live and silent auctions. The enthusiastic crowd bid generously, including $5000 for a progressive dinner at a selection of Auckland restaurants.

The grand total from ticket and auction sales came to $93,000 with an un-named person pledging the extra $7000 to make an even total of $100,000.

One hundred per cent of all proceeds are being donated to the Christchurch City Mission, an organisation that has a heavy load to bear in the coming months.

Christchurch City Missioner Michael Gorman was ecstatic to hear of the donation: “Our work at the City Mission is only just beginning, as we are now faced with an influx of new people who never thought they would need us. Redundancies and homelessness are forcing people to set aside their pride and seek help. We are eager to assist and will have better resources to do so with this wonderful donation,” he said.

George Fistonich's Villa Maria beats its own record with an outstanding 17 Golds

George Fistonich's Villa Maria Estate has beaten its own record having been awarded 17 Golds at the Royal Easter Show Wine Awards 2011. The awards are across their entire range of wines including Private Bin, Cellar Selection, Reserve and Single Vineyard and for majority of the wine varietals the winery makes.

Villa Maria Estate Group Winemaker Alastair Maling MW was ecstatic with the medal wins: “This is the most incredible result that we’ve had in a wine competition in the nine years I’ve been at Villa Maria. Not only is the result great for our brand, it’s also extremely satisfying to win awards across the full spectrum of wines produced by Villa Maria”.

The Royal Easter Show Wine Awards is New Zealand’s oldest wine competition and this year had a record 1500 wines entered from 276 wineries around the country.

Trophy winners will be announced at an awards dinner on 19 March 2011.