Friday, September 30, 2016

Barcelona star Iniesta seeks winning wine formula

Former Premier League managers Sir Alex Ferguson and Harry
Redknapp were well known for their love of wine, but none of
them went so far as to own a vineyard or winery.

And today's star players are more likely to put their riches
into sports cars or flashy apartments, than invest in anything
as esoteric as the cultivation of the grape.

However, outside of the UK it is different, with former Milan,
Juventus and Italy star Andrea Pirlo being well known for his
love of wine.

The classy midfielder, now playing in New York, owns the
Pratum Coller vineyard outside Brescia in Italy, which produces
up to 20,000 bottles of wine a year.

And a few years ago Barcelona star Lionel Messi put his name
to a series of wines produced in his homeland of Argentina.
But perhaps less well known, due to his quiet demeanour, is
another famous Barcelona star putting his time and money
into wine production - midfielder Andres Iniesta.

Family Business

Iniesta has won every honour going with club FC Barcelona,
including eight La Ligas and four Champions Leagues, and he
also scored the winning goal in the 2010 World Cup final for
Only this week Argentina's 1978 World Cup winning manager
called Iniesta, who is the most decorated Spanish player ever,
the best in the world.

But if you lived in Spain you might also see his face beaming
out from advertisements promoting wines from his family
business, Bodega Iniesta.

"This is a small business, and all the family is involved in it,
including Andres," the firm's export manager Jose Ramon
Cuenca Jara says at their trade stand at Soccerex.

"The family already owned the business before he became a
successful football player, and as he has grown up he has
also become involved."

Iniesta is the third generation from his family to take a role in
the business, which was established by his grandfather Jose
There are 180 hectares of vineyards, and all the wines are
made from their own grapes.

The business, based near Albacete, is two hours' drive from
Valencia, and two-and-a-half hours from Madrid, with the
wines produced coming under the geographic appellation



Iniesta was born in Fuentealbilla, a small village in the
province of Albacete, Castile-La Mancha, and it was his
performances for a youth team from Albacete that led him to
signing for Barcelona at the age of 12.

"He is from the area where the wine business is, and he has
never forgotten his roots there," says Mr Cuenca Jara.
"When he became a star player at Barcelona he invested a lot
of his money into the business.

"This enabled the family to then start producing wines. Before
that they did not make their own wines, but sold their grapes
to a local co-operative."

That change came in 2010.

But before that, from the time that Iniesta had broken into the
Barcelona B team in 2000 at the age of 16, he had helped the
family to expand their vineyard and to grow new types of

Genuine interest

Despite being in the top handful of players in the world, Iniesta
still has time for the family business.

"Of course he still takes in interest," says Mr Cuenta Jara.
"This is not just a marketing operation where a famous
footballer sticks their face and name onto a product."

Indeed when a new range of sparkling wines was launched in
the summer of 2015, it was the midfielder who introduced it to
the media.
"He takes a close interest in the vineyard and winery. He
spends time visiting the vineyard every summer and at
Christmas time," says the firm's export manager.

"If he just wanted to make a lot of money out of wine, rather
than really caring about it, he could have bought a winery in
Rioja, which is a better known wine region."
The operation employs 35 people, 25 in the winery, and 10 full
time in the vineyards.

Many of those staff are members of the extended Iniesta-
Lujan family, and his sister also works for the firm.
"It is a very rural area, and the people there really appreciate
the efforts that Andres is making." says Mr Cuenta Jara.

"We thought that as he invests in our area we would name
some wines associated with him as a means of gratitude."

Thus the company sells a wine that is named after his
daughter Valeria, and another after his son Paolo Andrea.
Meanwhile, another wine called "116" commemorates the
minute in the match.


Overall, one million bottles of wine were produced by Bodega
Iniesta in 2015 and it hopes to produce 1.2 million this year.

The wines, which include reds, roses, whites, and sparkling,
are available in 33 countries, including East Asia, south,
central and north America, and west and east Europe. In the
UK they sell for £6.50 to £17.

The business employs two wine consultants when creating a
new product.

"But also the family has an input to make sure they accord
with the quality associated with the image of the footballer
Andres Iniesta," says Mr Cuenta Jara.

He adds that such is the respect for Iniesta in Spain that he is
able to sell his wines in Madrid, the home of arch rivals Real.
"In Catalonia he is respected as the captain of Barcelona, and
in the rest of Spain he is respected as the guy who won the
World Cup for Spain," he says.

"Also, he is a typical Spanish family guy, which people
appreciate. And he does not get involved in political
controversy, which some other Barcelona or Real Madrid
players sometimes do."

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