Nestled in the northwest of the La Rioja region, in northern Spain, lies the quaint town of Haro. Adorned with undulating green hills and endless vineyards that spill over the horizon, Haro is one of the most significant wine-producing towns in the country. And once a year, every year, it’s residents celebrate this fact the only way they know how – by throwing wine all over each other.
La Batalla de Vino, or the annual ‘Wine Fight’, was held this year on June 29. The town became electric with excitement as thousands of people gathered to throw the sweet and sticky alcoholic beverage all over themselves and in their mouths. The tradition dates back to the 13th century, resembling the battle between Haro and its neighbouring towns. Hundreds of years later, La Batalla de Vino remains a monumental part of the town’s rich history.
It all begins the evening before, with the biggest party Haro will see for the entire year. The usually quiet cobblestone streets, framed with amber buildings and wrought iron balustrades, transform into vibrant street parades filled with roaring music and the loud cheers of the locals. The main town square spills with children, grandparents and everyone in between. This party will test your stamina as you can expect to stay up for the entire night.
The next day, as the sun comes up, the thirsty crowd climbs to the top of a nearby mountain where the festival takes place. The arduous stretch of road to the mountain is dotted with friendly locals in utes and vans generously offering lifts to and from the fight. It’s a sign of the warm nature of both the festival and the people here.
Madness begins as soon as you step foot into the dense shrubbery – wine splashing you from all angles and dripping down your legs. Everyone is dressed in white and there is no doubt, by the end of the venture up and down the hill, all clothing will have turned rich shades of pink and purple.
Locals get crafty with their weapons of mass destruction, entering the battle with buckets, sprayers and cartons ready to drench you in the sticky red liquid. But, at the end of the festivities, locals retire to the grassy foothill where they cook up a feast for the entire family and lingering tourists.
The event finishes with a celebration back at the town square as everyone gathers yet again, now slightly defeated, purple and smelling of alcohol. Yet, in all the wine fight’s taxing glory, the spirit hardly dwindles and the proud locals continue their festivities right through to the next morning.
If you ever plan on heading to La Batalla de Vino, be prepared for a truly authentic and joyful experience you will never forget. There’s nothing quite like it.