Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta plans to go global with his new winery. He first wants to get his team into the World Cup final.
The 26-year-old, man of the match in Spain’s last game, meets Germany tonight in a World Cup semifinal in Durban, South Africa. He’s spending about 9 million euros ($11.3 million) on vineyards and a winery a mile from his hometown in the Castilla La Mancha region, said his father Jose Antonio, who is managing the operation.
The Spanish economy is in a two-year slump, and the government is trying to cut the third-largest deficit in the euro region, while propping up savings banks. The winery, which plans to export to Germany, the U.K. and Japan, initially aims to make 200,000 euros of profit on annual revenue of 600,000 euros, Iniesta Sr. said.
“For every 10 euros he earns, I want him to get an eleventh from this,” Iniesta Sr., a self-employed builder, said as architects worked at the half-built winery under midday sun last month. “I’m not out to make myself a millionaire too.”
Iniesta is bucking a trend among millionaire soccer players in Spain who rarely start their own companies and put most of their riches in “very conservative” Spanish bank funds, according to Julio Senn, a Madrid lawyer with law firm Garrigues who advises athletes on investments.
The midfielder, who helped Barcelona and Spain win the Champions League and European Championship in the last two years, gets most of his income from his club contract and an endorsement deal with Nike Inc., his father said, adding that his son also has some real estate investments. Iniesta wasn’t made available to comment on his plans.
Soccer players in Spain typically invested about one-third of their money in real estate before its decade-long housing boom collapsed in 2007, Senn said.
The winery will make 700,000 bottles of red, white and rose wine a year and put the Bodega Iniesta brand on the labels, Iniesta said. Bodega means winery in Spanish. Production will start in September and in the first year some wine will be exported to the U.K. and Germany, where it could sell for as much as 40 euros a bottle at a restaurant, he added.
While Iniesta’s fame may help sales, it could take decades for the brand to become established in a crowded market, according to Felix Yanez, general manager of the publicly owned Vineyard and Wine Institute, which oversees winemaking in Castilla La Mancha.
“For Andres Iniesta it will be a good business,” Yanez said. “For his grandchildren it will be a very, very, very good business.”
Iniesta is also up against a wine glut in Europe that’s forcing down prices, Yanez said, adding that some growers in Castilla La Mancha are being forced to sell grapes for less than it costs to produce them.
Iniesta Sr. says cutting-edge technology will help the quality of his son’s wine stand out.
“This is the Champions League,” he said, comparing the wine business with the elite European soccer club competition. “If you don’t produce the best wine, you’re dead.”
Castilla La Mancha produces about half of Spain’s wine, Yanez said. In Fuentealbilla, where Iniesta is from, about half of the town’s 2,000 residents pool resources in a wine-making cooperative, although even as a group they don’t have the technology that the soccer player can afford, Angel Salmeron, the town’s mayor, said in an interview.
‘Just as Good’
Iniesta said on his website he feels “attached” to his homeland through winemaking. He is only able to visit occasionally because of soccer commitments like the World Cup in South Africa. He’s mostly lived in Barcelona since age 13, when he joined the Spanish champion’s youth academy.
He’s scored one goal in South Africa, and played 90 minutes in each of the team’s last three games. He was man of the match in Spain’s 1-0 quarterfinal victory over Paraguay.
His competitive instinct on the field may help the business, as he seeks to compete with better-known wine from the northern Spanish region of La Rioja.
“We can make just as good wine here,” Iniesta Sr. said.