On the soccer pitch, Andrés Iniesta’s sublime play for FC Barcelona and the Spanish national team has earned him nicknames like El Ilusionista (The Illusionist) and El Cerebro (The Brain). Over his career, he’s scored a World Cup-winning goal for his country and hoisted dozens of soccer’s most cherished trophies. But away from the packed stadiums, Iniesta, considered one of the world’s best midfielders, assumes a supporting role at his family’s winery in Manchuela, where he grew up. Iniesta spoke with us about Bodega Iniesta, the joys of Spanish gastronomy and how to properly celebrate a big victory.
You come from a village near Albacete. Did you grow up with wine?
For sure! Wine has always been present in my family. On one side, my grandparents had vines. On the other side, my maternal grandparents owned a bar, so wine was always around.
Was there a particular spark for your interest in making wine?
Since I was little, I was aware that wine forms a big part of Spanish popular culture and our gastronomic traditions. But it was my father [José Antonio] who convinced me to create our own winery. Certainly, there was a financial incentive—it was a way to invest. But more than that, it was an opportunity to create a business, something from our land.
How involved are you in the day-to-day operations at Bodega Iniesta?
The intense schedule of [soccer] doesn’t allow me to be involved every day. And the winery is in Fuentealbilla, about [300 miles] from Barcelona, where I live. My role is more on the communications and image side.
“Having two wines named after my kids gives me a real sense of happiness, and they’re both excellent wines.”
What types of wines does Bodega Iniesta produce?
We have two main brands: Corazón Loco and Finca El Carril. Corazón Loco are wines with a more commercial character. They are easy to drink. Finca El Carril is a line that’s more complex and sophisticated. For example, Finca El Carril Valeria, which is named after my daughter, is a barrel-fermented white wine. Our varietal Bobal, Finca El Carril Paolo Andrea, is named after my son. Having two wines named after my kids gives me a real sense of happiness, and they’re both excellent wines.
Do you sell your wines internationally? How about in the United States?
Our wines are in more than 25 countries, from Mexico to Japan. As for the U.S., we don’t currently sell there, but we are in the process of developing an export strategy with a well-known company in [the U.S.]. We expect to be in some states before the end of 2016.
Do you drink wine with your teammates?
First off, contrary to how it may seem, wine is permitted in the diet of a [soccer] player. Of course, we are talking about moderate consumption…. In general, my teammates—both at Barcelona and with the national team—enjoy wine.
After a big win, what’s the perfect wine with which to celebrate?
That all depends on the moment and who you are with. Wine requires time to enjoy, and after a big game, you have spent an intense amount of effort. You’re exhausted. A few days later, I like to celebrate calmly, with family.
When you stop playing soccer professionally, will you work full-time at the winery?
Full-time? No. I will continue with [soccer] in some form. It’s my love and what has made me what I am. The winery will always be there, and when I have more time, I hope to do some of the things I can’t enjoy now except on rare occasions, for example, being there for harvest or taking a simple walk in the countryside.