Patrick McGrath MW, Managing Director of Hatch Mansfield, was present to pick up the Award on behalf of Sir George who is currently travelling in Asia hosting 50th vintage celebrations. George was delighted to receive news of this honour in his current location of Beijing where his acceptance was filmed and shown at the ceremony this afternoon.
This is the ninth annual Drinks Business Awards Ceremony. Each year, the winners of nineteen prestigious categories are voted for by a series of judging panels made up of the great and good of the drinks trade. On presentation of the Award by Sue Birch, President of Wines of South Africa, Sir George was praised for his leadership and pioneering work at the forefront of New Zealand Wine.
Sir George joins an exclusive group of high profile figures from the drinks industry who have previously received this award including Simon McMurtrie, Chief Executive of Direct Wines in 2011, Christian Lopez of Concha Y Toro in 2010 and Hatch Mansfield's own Patrick McGrath MW in 2004.
This recognition for Sir George is particularly special coming in 2012 as it is 50 years since he bottled the first vintage of Villa Maria wine. To celebrate this exceptional milestone Sir George is currently travelling the globe hosting 50th vintage celebration events in Villa Maria Estate's key export markets. He will be travelling to the UK in September to continue celebrations.In 1961, 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.
Throughout the 1960's Villa Maria was virtually a one-man band, with George's wife, Gail, supporting him in his venture. In the early 1970's he started to employ staff and the company began to expand rapidly. Today, Villa Maria remains proudly 100% New Zealand and family owned employing more than 250 permanent staff. The company has two state-of-the-art winery facilities in Auckland and Marlborough and exports premium New Zealand wine to over 50 countries worldwide. Through his dedication to quality, George has led Villa Maria to claim more trophies and awards than any other New Zealand winery every year for over 30 years.
Sir George Fistonich has spent five decades at the forefront of New Zealand's wine industry. As an icon of the industry, Villa Maria is known for its bold and industry-changing moves such as moving to 100% screwcap through to the emphasis on sustainable practices in every area of the company.
Commented Sir George: "I am delighted to accept this award and wish to thank all the many people who have contributed to our success over the years- all the team at Villa Maria in New Zealand and overseas and the Hatch Mansfield team in the UK."