Villa Maria is the most-awarded winery in New Zealand, so it is not surprising that the estate's benchmark style led to it being selected as the producer of both our Exhibition Marlborough Pinot Noir and our Society's New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. What may come as more of a surprise, however, is the fact that the estate began as a one-man operation in Auckland back in the early 1960s, and that this same man is still at the helm of the company.
The name of that man is George Fistonich, and under his skilful leadership Villa Maria has consistently been a forerunner in New Zealand wine production. It was the first in the country to pay for grapes according to their quality rather than their quantity, as well as the first New Zealand winery to convert to 100% screwcap closures in 2001. The company was also one of the first to dedicate itself to more sustainable viticultural practises back in 1995.
Over the years, the estate has developed a reputation for being one of New Zealand's largest and most consistent producers, to the extent that George was the first in his country to receive a knighthood for services to the wine industry.
Villa Maria has impressive wineries both in Auckland and Marlborough, with many estate-owned vineyards in key sites across both of these regions, as well as in Gisborne and Hawkes Bay. In fact, one of Villa Maria's key features is the fact it owns and buys fruit from almost every major growing region in New Zealand, making the company an unbeatable source for top-quality fruit.
The estate carefully manages yields to ensure the respective vineyards produce fruit that is truly reflective of its location. The grapes for The Society's New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc are handpicked from two prime sites in the Awatere and Wairu Valleys in Villa Maria's Marlborough vineyards, while the Exhibition Marlborough Pinot Noir is a single-vineyard wine showing the plump succulence and elegance of top-quality Kiwi pinot noir.
Although the dynamic George still runs the company, winemaking direction is down to Master of Wine Alistair Maling.