Every year a festival takes place that is either a wine lovers dream or worst nightmare.
The Batalla de Vino (Battle of Wine) festival takes place in Haro, Spain, in the La Rioja region. The wine from the Rioja region is some of the most famous in the country. The town of Haro is one of the most important producers of the wine from the region, you can find around 40% of the vineyards there. This makes the fermented grape juice a big deal here. So it might come as no surprise every summer a festival takes place here that involves wine drinking competitions and contests along with the famous wine battle.
How did it start?
The festival dates back to the 12th century. There was a dispute over land between the people of Haro and the village next door: Miranda del Ebro. A judge ordered Haro officials to mark their property lines with purple banners every year on el día de San Pedro (Saint Peter’s day) and the first Sunday of September. If they did not do this the land would belong to the village of Miranda del Ebro.
Locals started a procession to the Bilibio cliffs every June 29th el día de San Pedro (Saint Peter’s day). The first battle happened in 1710. It started when a celebration broke out with people throwing wine at each other after having mass. From that, a tradition was born and called “War of Wine”. They later changed the name to Battle of the Wine in 1965 and has happened every year since.
What about now?
Today it is one of the most popular festivals in Spain. The festival kicks off on June 29th at 7 am with a procession of people dressed in white shirts and red scarves carrying anything that can hold wine from botas (wineskins) to water guns. Regidor Síndico (town mayor) leads the procession on horseback through the streets and out of the town. They make their way to the 5th century San Felices de Bilibio hermitage church located at the Bilibio cliffs.
The mayor hangs the city banner on the highest rock. That starts the religious mass. After the mass is when the battle begins. The battle is peaceful and the group is split into two opposing sides. A free-for-all with everyone pouring wine on their opponents soaking everyone in attendance from head to toe.
At noon the purple drenched battlers return to the town where the celebration continues in Plaza del la Paz with a feast and people typically eat snails and walk around the plaza. At night the festival moves to the bullring for the evening bullfights. The bulls that are used are vaquillas (“female heifers”) and are much less dangerous than the male bulls. When the bullfights come to an close it marks the end of another year of one of Spain’s most famous festivals.