The Wine Battle of Haro: The Most Special Festival of La Rioja Summer

Unique Wine Festival in Haro, La Rioja-Spain

Photo by NurPhoto via Getty Images

Celebrate and Get Drenched in Wine Annually on June 29th in Haro, Spain
San Vino | La Batalla de Vino de Haro | Wine Battle

A Tradition Born from Pilgrimage

In the heart of the renowned wine region of La Rioja in northern Spain, a unique and exciting festivity takes place each year. The Wine Battle of Haro, declared a Festival of National Tourist Interest since 2011, attracts thousands of people from around the world. This celebration seamlessly blends wine, fun, and camaraderie into an enological confrontation with epic undertones. On June 29th, a new edition of this tradition, which originated from a pilgrimage to the hermitage of San Felices, will be held, featuring the thrilling spectacle of 70,000 liters of wine being joyously thrown.

History: From Pilgrimage to Wine Battle

The origins of the Wine Battle of Haro can be traced back to the 18th century when pilgrims began visiting the remains of San Felices, a saint who lived on the hill of Bilibio in the 5th century. The tradition of visiting the saint’s resting place, initially located in a cave, gradually transformed into a pilgrimage. In the shade of the hill, after attending Mass in the 18th century, the fervent and thirsty pilgrims would have lunch. It is believed that, on one occasion, a resident of Haro playfully doused a fellow attendee with wine, either as a joke or to combat the high temperatures. This act sparked a tradition known as the “baptism of wine,” which eventually evolved into the Wine Battle we know today. In 1949, the event officially became the Wine Battle of Haro.

June 29th: From Tradition to Wine

June 29th, also known as Saint Peter’s Day, marks the culmination of the patron saint festivals that precede the Wine Battle of Haro. The day begins with the procession of the Brotherhood of San Felices, founded in 1655, who accompany the saint from Haro to the Riscos de Bilibio, situated eight kilometers away. Upon reaching the hilltop, the Regidor Síndico places the Banner, and participants can finally rest at the hermitage of San Felices, which offers magnificent views of the Ebro River winding through the vineyards.

The Wine Battle: A Delightfully Chaotic Affair

As participants gather for Mass at the hermitage, the atmosphere is reminiscent of the famous San Fermín festival. However, what truly sets this event apart is the curious array of items carried by attendees: jugs, containers, buckets, sprayers, bottles, barrels, wineskins, water guns, and various other vessels. The air is filled with the unmistakable scent of wine. Before the Mass even concludes, someone inevitably starts the battle by playfully dousing others with wine, triggering a vibrant clash that covers everything in a vibrant shade of purple. It is estimated that over 70,000 liters of wine are used as ammunition during the event.

The Rules of the Battle

Despite its seemingly chaotic nature, the Wine Battle of Haro does have some rules and guidelines. Participants must wear white clothing and exclusively use red wine as ammunition. Pouring any other type of liquid is strictly prohibited. Although the event takes place before 10 o’clock in the morning, it is entirely acceptable for participants to indulge in a few sips of wine themselves. Respect for fellow attendees is paramount, ensuring that the battle remains a jovial and inclusive experience.

After the Battle: Celebration and Camaraderie

Once the battle concludes and all the participants are thoroughly drenched in wine, the atmosphere shifts into a more serene celebration. Attendees share the remaining wine, exchange anecdotes, and immerse themselves in the festive ambiance. A delightful lunch follows, featuring traditional dishes like chuletillas al sarmiento (grilled lamb chops) and caracoles (snails). With satisfied appetites, the pilgrims begin their return journey to Haro. At noon, in the Plaza de la Paz, the typical “Vueltas” ceremony takes place, accompanied by brass bands, while in the Plaza de Toros, bullfighting events commence, adding an extra touch of excitement to the festivities.

Other Wine Festivals in Spain

The Wine Battle of Haro is not the only traditional festival in Spain where wine takes center stage. While not as well-known, several other celebrations also provide memorable experiences for attendees. For instance, the Gran Cabalgata del Vino (Great Wine Parade) in Jumilla (Murcia) takes place on August 15th as part of the harvest festival, where wine is distributed among the participants. In Bronchales (Teruel), the unique Sopeta festival, held in August, features a wine battle that leaves the residents “soaked” in wine, as the name suggests. The albariño festival in Cambados (Pontevedra) and the wine festival in Valdepeñas (Ciudad Real) also showcase the love for wine in these regions, although they don’t involve changing the color of participants’ attire.

Embrace the Vibrant Tradition of the Wine Battle of Haro

The Wine Battle of Haro stands as a remarkable testament to the lively spirit and rich traditions of the La Rioja region in Spain. This unique festival, born from a pilgrimage and now recognized as a Festival of National Tourist Interest, captivates attendees from around the world. The exhilarating clash of 70,000 liters of wine creates a visually stunning and joyous spectacle, where participants engage in an enological confrontation of epic proportions. Beyond the chaotic battle, the event fosters camaraderie, celebration, and a shared passion for wine.

As pilgrims gather in white attire, armed with containers and jugs of red wine, the air becomes infused with the unmistakable aroma of this cherished beverage. Laughter fills the air as wine is playfully tossed, marking the beginning of a vibrant clash. Amidst the purple-hued chaos, rules of respect and revelry govern the proceedings, ensuring that the festival remains a joyous and inclusive experience for all.

Following the wine battle, the celebration transitions into a more tranquil affair, where participants share stories, indulge in a delightful lunch, and revel in the festive ambiance. It is a moment of unity, where the love for wine, the region’s rich history, and the spirit of camaraderie intertwine harmoniously.

The Wine Battle of Haro is not just a festival; it is an embodiment of La Rioja’s cultural heritage, a spectacle that blends tradition, excitement, and the unique beauty of the vineyards. Whether you are a wine enthusiast, a curious traveler, or simply seeking a truly extraordinary experience, the Wine Battle of Haro invites you to immerse yourself in the magic of this vibrant celebration. Come and embrace this remarkable tradition, where wine becomes a symbol of unity, joy, and the indomitable spirit of the Riojano summer.

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