First Published in the Costa News Group’s four titles March 2012




Bear with me here, this is the wine column, I assure you!

For one who was once heavily involved in football: both amateur (I played in local leagues and coached schools’ and representative schools’ teams); and professional football (I spent six years as a professional scout for Liverpool FC) you may be surprised to hear me saying that over the intervening years I have become somewhat disenchanted with the sport.

Whilst I suppose that for me it will always be, to put it in the great Pele’s words, “The Beautiful Game”, I can’t help but feel that the name has become tarnished since those halcyon days when the Pele, universally recognised as his generation’s best exponent, astonished us with his supreme skill as well as his humbleness and exemplary conduct. I’m sure you’ve now guessed where I’m coming from.

Pele, Bobby Charlton, the late Bobby Moore, Franz Beckenbauer et al plus perhaps their more modern day equivalents like Gary Lineker, and fast-forwarding to the wonderfully gifted, Messi, for example must watch and read aghast at the shameful face of today’s football. It seems we can’t open our newspapers or turn on the radio and TV without hearing about, at best, the petty, petulant schoolboy squabbling of current practitioners of the now less than beautiful game; or indeed at worst, accusations of sexual harassment, violence and, currently in vogue, it appears,  disgraceful racism.

We’ll I recently experienced another side of professional football, one of which Pele and his like-minded friends would surely approve. At last a warm story about the most popular game in the world and, my wine-loving friends, a story related, you’ll be glad to know, to this column’s raison d’etre – wine!

Those of you who, like myself, retain at least an interest in football, despite all that’s currently wrong with it, will know the name Andrés Iniesta, scorer of Spain’s World Cup winning goal in 2010 and, put simply, one of the best players in the world. Indeed his invaluable contribution to Barça’s midfield is one of the main reasons why Barcelona currently enjoy being lauded as the best club team on Earth. In sporting terms he really is a living legend!

And it’s Andrés Iniesta who has managed to put a smile back on my face, not just when I see him play, but also because of a little known off the field activity in which he is involved.

Señor Iniesta, Andrés father, and his family have always worked the land around a small village Called Fuenteabilla, not so far from Albacete. As a young man and using a horse he used to plough the fields surrounding the relatively grand finca of the wealthiest man of the village, dreaming a seemingly impossible dream of one day owning his own land and planting vines to make and sell vines, on a small scale of course.

Well, when his son Andrés achieved part one of his own apparently intangible dream by signing as a professional player for Barcelona he used a significant part of his signing-on fee to realise that of his father. The wealthiest family of the village were approached, a price was agreed and Andrés was able to present his father with not not only the land surrounding the finca, but the finca as well! Bodega Iniesta was born!

On a gloriously sunny but very cold morning in early February I exited the state-of-the-art building with Chief Wine Maker Juanjo Muñoz who pointed out to the rear, across pristine vineyards of neatly pruned 50+ year old vines, the white finca on the horizon which sits happily amid the vines of Bodega Iniesta. Inside the grape reception area the temperature was wine-friendly, though not so journalist-friendly, and my fascinating tour began.

Bodega Iniesta is not a Glitterati trophy bodega as are other wineries in different countries. Famous Rock Musicians, Actors, Film Directors and Sports-people have invested in wine operations, some with more success than others, and some, really with no other thought than simply expanding their fame, and wealth, hopefully.

It’s clear from the outset that Andrés Iniesta has inherited his family’s passion for the land, for the vine and ultimately for the wine produced on it. The philosophy of the bodega is to produce wine that tops the price/quality ratio list where a celebrity’s wine will not boast celeb prices. No wonder a banner in the village proudly proclaims, ‘Iniesta Siempre Contigo!”

Part two next week!