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.