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New Zealand's wine-making Knight

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In 1961 George Fistonich, now correctly known as Sir George Fistonich leased five acres of land from his father. To finance his new venture he sold his car, took out a bank loan and borrowed some money from family. It was a brave move, his only experience was that he came from a family who often made their own wine at home.

George’s father had initially had other ideas for his son’s career. George was encouraged to pick up a trade, completing an apprenticeship in carpentry and joinery. From an early age, George had other ambitions. He knew he didn’t want to be a builder. George grew up surrounded by wine but the wine industry in New Zealand was still in its infancy.

George planted his first acre of vines in 1961, harvesting the grapes in 1962. He created his first vintage with these grapes under the name Villa Maria, aged just 22. He sold his first wines to customers at Auckland University and in the following years, he created dry white and red wines with grapes sourced from the wider Auckland regions.

He forged ahead as a one-man sales and marketing force throughout the 1960’s. He travelled the length and breadth of New Zealand with his wines and founded the Villa Maria wine club. It was established to educate consumers through wine appreciation evenings. 50 years later these intimate monthly wine tastings are still ongoing.

George focused on the importance of regional differences in grape and wine styles. Pioneering the use of contract growers and becoming the first winery in New Zealand to price for grapes bought based on quality rather than quantity.

In 1988 Villa Maria began to export its wines all over the world. From then on the winery has gone from strength to strength, opening its Marlborough Winery in 2000 and George Fistonich being knighted for his work, the country’s first for the wine industry. Today Villa Maria lay claim to being New Zealand’s most awarded winery. They were named New Zealand Wine Producer of the Year at the International Wine & Spirit Competition in 2009, 2007, 2006 and 2004.

However, George believes the secret to the success of Villa Maria wine has come from not chasing awards. The winery aims to focus on making great quality wines that they know consumers will enjoy. The range of Villa Maria wines we stock are a testament to this, they are continually popular in the trade.

The Villa Maria Private Bin range offers a selection of wines from grapes grown across Marlborough, Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay. These wines are endlessly enjoyable and are perfectly suited to the On-Trade with an attractive price point and popular varietals. You won’t be surprised to learn that the range includes a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (10197). It’s vibrant and driven by gooseberry, passion fruit and lime aromas, given to it by the typical cool Marlborough climate and long hours of sunshine.

In our range, you will also discover the multi-award winning Cellar Selection range featuring an elegant and aromatic Sauvignon Gris (29100). It has aromas of citrus, nectarine and pineapple with a mineral wet-stone undertone. The palate is textured, exhibiting a medley of stone fruit and pear intertwined with a herbal note.

The silver medal winning Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir (11742) is made from fruit sourced from five vineyards, each harvested and vinified separately. Matured in small French oak barriques for up to ten months, it’s an outstanding example of New Zealand Pinot Noir.

Last, but by no means least is the range of Reserve wines. The Villa Maria Clifford Bay Reserve Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (10315) won gold at the International Wine Challenge 2016 and is a wine that shows an incredible concentration of flavour on the palate. The fruit is grown in the Awatere Valley close to the sea. The benefit of the moderating sea breezes during the warm summer months helps produce fruit with great intensity of flavour.

It takes something special to win a platinum medal. Luckily the Villa Maria Pinot Noir Reserve (12049) is just that. This wine is sourced from vineyards located in Wairau and Awatere Valleys. Hand-harvested bunches are fermented in ‘open-top’ fermenters. The wine is then aged in a mix of new and one-year-old French oak barrels for ten months. Rich and fleshy with the seductive, silky-smoothness associated with top quality Pinot Noir, it’s a real show-stopper.

55 years on, the principles that George applied to wine making are still evident in the wines they produce. Starting with great vineyards and great people, Villa Maria has strived forward in the pursuit of quality and innovation. Above all however, is the passion for New Zealand wines that everyone can enjoy.

You can find more information about the Villa Maria wines we stock here. If you want to stock Villa Maria wines, click here to place an order online now, or here to request an account with us; and don’t forget we’re here to support you with everything you need to ensure that your wine range is a success, from free menu design and print services to staff training.

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