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From a one-man band to a global brand in just 50 years

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 1960s 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.

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Villa Maria Milestones & Achievements

George Fistonich has spent five decades at the forefront of New Zealand’s wine industry
that he helped develop. As an icon of the New Zealand wine industry, we are known for
bold and industry-changing moves such as moving to 100% screwcap through to the
emphasis on sustainable practices in every area of the family owned company.


George Fistonich leased five acres of his father and started Villa Maria at the tender age of 21


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 where grapes were paid for based on quality and not on quantity


Export commenced


Villa Maria became an accredited member of Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ)


Marlborough winery opened


Villa Maria decided to become a cork-free zone and to move to 100% screwcaps


Auckland winery & vineyard park opened


George Fistonich received the country's first knighthood for his services to the New Zealand wine industry


50 years of exceptional winemaking celebrations


Secret of success

George Fistonich believes that the secret to Villa Maria’s success does not lie in chasing awards but rather focusing on making superior quality wine that consumers can readily enjoy. Get this right and the awards naturally follow

Great Producers

One of the World’s 50 Great Wine Producers by Wine Spectator Magazine (USA - 2004)

Most Admired

One of the World's 50 Most Admired Brands - Drinks International Magazine (UK - 2012)

Winery of the Year

New Zealand Winery of the Year - Wine Magazine (China - 2012)

Company of the Year

New Zealand Wine Company of the Year - The 2012 award marked the 12th time in 15 years - Winestate (AUS 2012)

Top New World

New World Winery of the Year - Wine Enthusiast Magazine (USA - 2007)

Producer of the Year

New Zealand Wine Producer of the Year - International Wine & Spirit Competition (UK - 2009, 2007, 2006 & 2004)


George Fistonich, knighted by the New Zealand government for services to the wine industry

Top 50 Figures

George Fistonich short listed as one of 50 prominent figures in the wine industry by Wine International Magazine (UK - 2005)


George Fistonich named Ernst & Young 2005 Entrepreneur of the Year (NZ)