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Celia Hay awarded Sir George Fistonich Medal


Celia Hay awarded the Sir George Fistonich Medal 2022 in recognition of services to New Zealand Wine.

I am very honoured to receive this award and in doing so,  I started to reflect on my own journey and how people get started in the world of wine.

My father was the Mayor of Christchurch, back in the 1970s as a young woman, I would often be a server at their functions.

One evening, my parents hosted a dinner party at our home for the Governor General Sir Dennis Blundell. For some reason, I was the person pouring the wine. The go-to wine in those days was Blue Nun Liebfraumilch Muller Thurgau, nothing red. We have come a long way. 

Here I was, serving this most important man in New Zealand, and he was giving me tips on my service techniques.

  • pour from the right
  • show the label
  • twist the bottle
  • don’t over-fill the glass

This whole culture of wine and hospitality is something that we have had to learn in New Zealand. I went on to work in restaurants and visit wine regions like Napa Valley and then when I set up my first Delicatessen, what today, we would call a café, I became more aware of the lack of quality hospitality education in New Zealand. This coincided changes to the sale of alcohol legislation and surge in growth of vineyards and the rise of Sauvignon Blanc.

Through the 1990s, I started to train myself about wine, reading Michael Cooper’s books, Bob Campbell’s articles, Jancis Robinson and taking a Wine Spectator subscription. Once I opened my restaurant, Hay's which featured lamb from our family farm in Pigeon Bay, I set my goal on gaining a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for our winelist.

It took 4 years before I was ready to apply to Wine Spectator. During this time, I had to install a temperature-controlled wine room and invest each year in quantities of premium wine that I could cellar to show depth of vintages. These wines with multiple (vertical) vintages included Villa Maria Riesling, Ata Rangi Pinot Noir, Tom, Te Mata Coleraine from 1998 - 2007 Quartz Reef Pinot Noir and many more.

My goal, over all these years, remains to inspire others, especially young people, to learn more and seek out jobs in our dynamic hospitality, cooking and wine and beverages world. To pique their curiosity of our fascinating world and encourage others to find out more.

Celia Hay

November 2022

Here are the previous recipients the Sir George Fistonich Medal. 

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Celia Hay

Celia is a qualified chef and holds the WSET (London) Diploma of Wine. She has a Bachelor of Arts in History, Master of Education (Distinction) and MBA Master of Business Administration from the University of Canterbury.

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The School

Founded by Celia Hay, the New Zealand School of Food and Wine opened its first campus in Christchurch in 1995.

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