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"From a one-man band to a global brand in 50 years."
Established by George Fistonich in 1961, Villa Maria started with a single acre of vines in Mangere where George had leased land from his father. The first wine made under the Villa Maria name was in 1962 and throughout the 1960s it remained a "one-man band" with George's wife, Gail, supporting him along the way.
In the 1970s George began to employ staff across NZ and source grapes from greater Auckland regions and beyond.
Villa Maria has remained 100% family owned since their humble beginnings and now employs over 250 people and grows 28 grape varieties across Auckland, Marlborough, Hawke's Bay and Gisborne.
Photo credit & information - Villa Maria Wines
"With vision and determination, he has steered the company to a position where it has become New Zealand’s leading wine award winner."
George's success has come from his drive and passion with wine having been a central part of his upbringing. He knew he didn't want to be a builder as his parents would have liked so he leased 5 acres of land from his Father in Mangere, Auckland, and planted the vines.
From the beginning George was focussed on the importance of regional differences and how grape quality and wine style would vary region to region. He pioneered the use of contract growers and led Villa Maria to become the first New Zealand wine company to initiate payment for grapes based on quality rather than a flat contract price. George was also one of the first wine business owners in New Zealand to employ professional viticulturists, recognising the importance viticulture plays in the quality of the wine.
Beyond his innovations in grape growing and management he also declared in 2002 that Villa Maria would become a "cork-free zone." This was a bold move and risked impacting overseas business but George was certain quality was to be put first.