Every year on the 29th of June, thousands of locals and tourists climb a mountain in the town of La Rioja, Spain and throw wine at each other. The crowd erupts in a fury of dark red splashes, each participant stained a deep shade of purple. After running around giggling and shouting while soaked in vino, everyone rushes to run around a bull ring chasing the bulls and then goes to party all night long. During the Haro Wine Festival many people make it their goal to fill themselves up with more wine than they have splashed on their clothes and to dance until the sun comes up.
Rioja Alta – A Town Devoted to Grapes
, located in the picturesque Rioja region. This area is where around 40% of the vineyards in the region are found and the town of Rioja Alta focuses on the grapes as its main claim to fame. Wine production is vital to the town’s economy and the Haro Wine Festival (also known as Batalla del Vino) is the ultimate celebration of wine.
The wine slinging battle is a symbolic representation of a land dispute between two neighbouring towns (Mirando de Ebro and Haro) that dates back to the 10th century. A parade of horsemen lead all of the participants up to the Hermitage of San Felices be Bilibio, where the flag is placed and a mass is held.
After the wine battle, it is traditional for the wine soaked festival-goers to play around with the bulls at the Haro Wine Festival Bullfights. These are actually smaller female heifers rather than full grown male bulls, so they are less dangerous.
The Rules of Haro Wine Festival Battle
If you choose to take part in the wine fight, you will be allowed to use containers such as bottles, jugs, buckets or hose pipes to make it easier to sling wine at other people. There are no winners or losers and it’s hard to even tell which side anyone is on – it’s all about gleefully flinging wine everywhere. Most people show up wearing white, but anything you wear will be permanently purple by the end of the fight so don’t wear your best clothes!
To get to the town of Haro you can drive north from Madrid or south from Bilbao. The AP-68 toll motorway passes through Haro, providing a fast connection to Logrono, Burgos-Madrid, Bilbao and Zaragoza-Barcelona.
While there are bus connections from Haro to the rest of Spain, the easier way to get there is to travel to San Sebastian near the French border and take a shuttle from there.
Considering that the festivities take place over two days and you won’t want to go anywhere while you recover from your wine hangover the next day – you should expect to spend at least 2-3 days in town enjoying the Haro Wine Festival.