One thing you have to know about the Spanish, they really do know how to throw a party. And for some reason they can get pretty darn messy. We already told you about “La Tomatina“, the tomato throwing festival in Buñol, Spain, but surprisingly there is an even wilder fiesta brewing about 350 miles north in the city of Haro. Here in the Rioja Region, June 29th is the Batalla del Vino or Wine Battle aka the Haro Wine Festival. Though many Spanish festivals are meant to celebrate various patron saints (June 29th is also St. Pedro’s Day) this little shin dig is anything but saintly. Whereas most people think the point of a wine festival is to get the drink IN you, here the goal is to get it ON you (well mostly).
This Bacchanalian celebration has its roots in a land dispute with the nearby village of Miranda de Ebro dating back to the 900s. Over time the battle became less angry and more light hearted until eventually sometime during the late 19th or early 20th century the Wine Battle was born. Although the festival technically kicks off the morning of the 29th after a celebratory mass in the chapel, there is actually much anticipatory merriment in the days preceding the battle, most especially the night before. We strongly recommend you get to town at least a couple of days in advance of the Haro Wine Festival so as to truly immerse yourself in the raucous entertainment and welcoming culture of the people.
After the morning mass, the mayor of Haro leads a throng of people to Mount San Felices where revelers donned head to toe in white (except for a single red bandana) gather their weapons and armor. Unlike traditional battles, in the Batalla del Vino the weapons consist of water guns, leather wine skins, plastic bottles, and cups; armor is typically a pair of goggles; and your artillery is eight to ten thousand of gallons of delicious red wine. The Rioja Region is quite renowned for its unique reds, and as a result this festival serves not only as an excuse to let off some steam, but also for tourists to get to know why this area is so famous.
It is now that the war begins. Thousands of locals and visitors prepare themselves to turn a lovely shade of purple as the wine pours without abandon. It’s primal, it’s indulgent, and it’s pure unadulterated fun. Despite the copious amounts of alcohol, everyone seems to get along and in every direction all you can see are smiles and more wine. The combat rages for several hours until around noon time when the celebrants make their way to the town center for a sort of mini running of the bulls. This is followed by large feasts and of course lots more wine. The spirit and warmth that surrounds you at the Batalla del Vino is unrivaled. It is an charming celebration of freedom and excess that can be found nowhere else on Earth.