Our Story

Reaching New Zealand shores in 1838, pioneering French missionaries founded a legacy.

From their many accomplishments now interwoven throughout history came New Zealand’s first winery, Mission in 1851.  Their inspiration, a legacy we continue.

Our Story

Mission Estate is a multi-award-winning winery and an iconic New Zealand landmark located in the heart of Hawke’s Bay.  Established in 1851 by French missionaries, it is New Zealand’s oldest winery and home to a heritage like no other.

Paul Mooney, our passionate winemaker since 1979, crafts a wide range of classic red and white varietals characterised by purity of flavour, finesse and delicacy.  Trained by the Marist Brothers themselves, Paul imparts the very essence of Mission’s French heritage winemaking philosophy into both our Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough wines.

We consider ourselves guardians of our heritage and our land, and for more than 20 years we have been proud to be a founding member of Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand.  In 1998, we were also one of the first wineries in New Zealand to be accredited with the internationally recognised environmental management system ISO 14001.  Both certifications represent Mission’s ongoing commitment and dedication to minimising our impact on the environment.

Our Heritage

Mission Estate Winery has a fascinating past, surviving everything from floods to earthquakes, cutting the building into 11 parts and transporting it to its current site in Taradale using traction engines, all the while planting and growing grapes in Hawke’s Bay. Check out some of the historical images below to follow our story.
  1. 1838

    Mission’s story begins with a group of French Missionaries.  In 1838 with the blessing of the Pope, they sailed to New Zealand with little more than their faith, generations of winemaking experience and a few precious vines.

  2. 1851

    In 1851 the Fathers established a mission station near the Ngaruroro River between Napier and Hastings at Pakowhai and there they followed the tradition of running a balanced farm property with fruit trees, cattle and a vineyard.

  3. 1858

    The missionaries moved to land they had purchased at Meeanee and a major community was established.  A cottage for living quarters was transported from Pakowhai and later a Church, school and study halls were built.  Vines were planted to produce both sacramental and table wine to continue their wine-drinking tradition.

  4. 1870

    Brother Cyprian Huchet, the humble son of a vigneron from the Loire Valley rises to the exalted position of Mission Estate Cellar Master and oversees New Zealand’s first recorded commercial sale of wine.  Having grown up amongst the vineyards and wine cellars in France, Cyprian Huchet’s wine knowledge became extremely sophisticated, instilling a wealth of knowledge that lives on at Mission Estate today.

  5. 1880

    A new two-storied house costing 2020 pounds and 10 shillings was built.  It was known as La Grande Maison or the “big house” and became the home for the early French Marists for three decades.

  6. 1897

    The 800-acre Mission Estate is purchased from the Tiffen family.  The Marist brothers travelled each day from Meeanee to work the new land where a small orchard and some vines were planted. The first grapes were tended on the gently sloping land of the southern spur and the terraced area that is now used for the annual Mission Concert.

  7. 1909

    Following a disastrous flood, it was soon realised that the land where the house was located was subject to periodic flooding so Father Smythe decided to move the Mission community to the present site.  The Mission building was cut into eleven sections and rolled on logs and pulled by traction engines. The journey, just under 5kms took two days.

  8. 1911

    57 English Plane trees which still stand today in the driveway are planted.

  9. 1914

    A new Gothic Chapel was erected and named Mount St Mary’s.

  10. 1931

    In 1930 a contract was let for the construction of a three-story concrete accommodation block. On 2 February 1931, the students moved into the new building. The next morning on 3 February 1931 at 10.47am, an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale struck Hawke’s Bay causing serious damage to the region and the entire Mission. Two priests and seven students who were meditating in the stone chapel were killed when it hit.

  11. 1940

    Additional vineyards planted as production grows.

  12. 1941

    5,500 gallons of wine is commercially sold.

  13. 1963

    Fontanella sparkling wine is launched – New Zealand’s first Méthode Traditionelle.

  14. 1972

    17,000 square foot expansion to winery building is undertaken.

  15. 1979

    Approx 110 acres of grapes planted at Meeanee and Greenmeadows. Paul Mooney becomes Mission winemaker having trained under the Brothers.

  16. 1983

    New Zealand’s first whole bunch pressed, barrel-fermented Chardonnay is made at Mission Estate.

  17. 1992

    Marist seminary leaves St Mary’s and relocates to Auckland.

  18. 1993

    Dame Kiri Te Kanawa performs at the inaugural Mission Concert.

  19. 1994

    Mission Estate is a founding member of Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand.  More than twenty years later, SWNZ is still widely recognised as world-leading, with 96% of New Zealand’s vineyard producing area certified by the programme

  20. 1998

    Mission establishes an environmental management system and is audited to the ISO 14001 standard. We are successful in achieving ISO 14001 – the first winery to achieve this in New Zealand.

  21. 2002

    Mission main house, La Grande Maison is extensively refurbished and receives an architectural award. Mission Restaurant opens.

  22. 2005

    Rod Stewart plays to 25,000 fans at the annual concert.

  23. 2007

    In 2007 the winery undergoes a major expansion doubling grape pressing capacity. The production facility was designed to deliver maximum energy and water efficiencies – a vital element in our ongoing commitment to the environment.

  24. 2012

    100-hectare Cable Bay Station Vineyard in the Awatere Valley, Marlborough is purchased. Farmhouse accommodation opens.

    **Mission first block organically certified

  25. 2020

    Mission successfully navigates vintage and continues to trade during the global Covid-19 pandemic. Mission Restaurant undergoes a major refurbishment and reopens for summer.

  26. 2021

    Mission celebrates 170 years! Mission relaunches its wines with an updated label design.

Our Vineyards

Mission was first to introduce vines to the Hawke’s Bay in the 1850s.  Today, our vineyards span two of New Zealand’s best winegrowing regions; Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough, and we are proud to hold some of the finest vineyard sites in New Zealand.

New Zealand Winegrowing

Central to the success of New Zealand as a world-renowned wine growing region is the temperate maritime climate and free-draining alluvial soils.

The growing season is long, providing perfect conditions for the slow ripening and full flavour development.  Cool nights and warm days retain fruit acidity which lends itself to freshness and vibrancy which is highly characteristic of New Zealand wine styles.

Hawke’s Bay

Located on the east coast of the North Island, Hawke’s Bay wine region is on the warmest growing regions in New Zealand.  The long and warm growing season provides for excellent ripening conditions and full flavour development delivering rich and fruity wines.

Our Hawke’s Bay vineyards in the Gimblett Gravels and Taradale focus on Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, but also include small blocks of other varietals such as Semillon and Cabernet Franc.

Additional supply comes from our long-term grower partners.

Marlborough

Located at the top of the South Island, Marlborough conditions are perfect for producing cool climate wine styles. Marlborough is one of New Zealand’s sunniest and driest places, with a long growing season and strong diurnal temperature variation. This leads to fruit driven wines with intense varietal character.

Our Marlborough vineyard, Cable Station Road in the Awatere Valley supplies cooler climate varietals of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.

Our People

Our people are our foundation and our future.  Our values are rooted deeply in our culture and everything we do nurtures an environment for support and success.
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Peter Holley

Chief Executive

Peter Holley, originally from South Africa, has held the position of CEO at Mission Estate since 1996.  In this role he has led the company to success, achieving the position of a top ten New Zealand wine producer and formidable producer of fine wine.  Peter is focused on continual improvement.

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Paul Mooney

Head Winemaker

Paul Mooney has been the winemaker at Mission Estate for 40 years, making him one of the most experienced winemakers in New Zealand. Paul’s winemaking philosophies are heavily influenced by his mentor, Brother John, who trained in Bordeaux during the 60s.

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Steve Wheeler

Viticulturist

Steve joined Mission in October 2013. Steve has significant experience in both viticulture and horticulture, holding a Master of Applied Science in Viticulture from Charles Sturt University in Australia and a Bachelor of Horticultural Science from Lincoln University. Steve is responsible for overseeing the company’s fruit supply.

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Tony Stanford

National Sales Manager

Tony is a highly experienced National Sales Manager whose journey at Mission started in 1999 having already achieved over 12 years at Coca Cola Amatil.  Tony manages all the key accounts and a bright team of area representatives proudly keeping our great wines well stocked around the country.

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Jo Pearson

Marketing Manager

Jo has worked in wine since 2001, firstly as a viticulturist across Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough vineyards, before moving into marketing and sales in 2008.  Since this time, Jo has delivered key strategic business development projects and brand development initiatives in New Zealand and global markets.  Holding a Bachelor of Management Studies in Marketing from the University of Waikato, and a Post Graduate Diploma in Viticulture & Winemaking from Lincoln University, Jo has an excellent understanding of the whole wine industry and relishes the challenge of working with one of New Zealand’s most iconic wine brands.

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Mitch Gardiner

Export Manager

Mitch has extensive sales experience and has held positions in the food service sector. Mitch has held senior positions within the Marlborough wine industry developing and implementing sales and marketing strategy for domestic and international markets. He has also worked on the operations side giving him a broad view of wine business positioning him perfectly for his role at Mission which focuses on developing our international markets.

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Fraser Hope

Financial Controller

Fraser is a Chartered Accountant, holding a Bachelor of Commerce and Arts from the University of Canterbury.  Having worked in variety of industries gaining experience in hospitality, insurance and engineering both in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, Fraser understands what is needed for a business to be successful.  Growing up on a Hawke’s Bay orchard, Fraser returned to Hawke’s Bay with his family in 2017.