The Wine Fight is held on the morning of the 29th of June each year in the historical heart of Rioja just outside the town of Haro (pronounced Aro), and is an exuberant, liberating and totally awesome experience.
Unlike the Running of the Bulls and San Fermin in Pamplona or the La Tomatina Tomato Festival in Bunol near Valencia, the Wine Fight is a much more authentic Spanish fiesta with many locals and fewer tourists.
From 7.00am in the morning on a craggy hillside at the foot of the Cliffs of Bilibio boozy revellers begin to gather. Most have had no sleep having partied all night in the town’s main square to the many bands and DJ’s that have performed the night away. The streets of Haro are filled the night before with locals of all ages and you’ll often see kids and the elderly still there at dawn and heading to the Wine Fight arm in arm.
With historical roots forged a millennium ago, this wine throwing fiesta, known locally as the La Batalla Del Vino (battle of the wine), is quite simply put…Crazy! According to tradition, Haro had to reclaim its control of the area every year by raising the town’s flag above the tiny chapel at the top of the cliff. Eventually pilgrims who were to carry out this ritual, started feasting, drinking and well…the rest is history as they say!
Combatants make their way the 6kms out of town to the location by foot, bike, horse, tractor, car, scooter, motorcycle, donkey or via the council provided free bus transfers which take you most of the way to the Cliffs of Bilibio. For this insane battle the weapon of choice is vino (wine) and there is no quarter asked and no mercy given once in the thick of the action. Armed with water pistols, buckets, crop sprayers, water bombs, jugs, backpacks, bottles and every other imaginable vessel that can hold liquid the crowd gleefully covers each other in red wine from head to toe.
The tradition of San Vino dictates that everyone wears white clothing adorned with red sashes and scarves and it’s pretty much guaranteed that by the end of the Wine Fight that there won’t be any part of your clothing that’s not stained irreversibly red. Young children can be seen attacking adults and grandparents can be seen dumping buckets of red wine on very young children. There is no mercy. Tourists are easily identifiable and simple cannon fodder for the locals and are guaranteed to be soaked. This Wine Fight is bacchanalia at its core and the wine god Bacchus himself would be proud to witness this ridiculous, superfluous but totally energising and invigorating event.
Most tourists attending the Wine Fight stay at the nearby campsite which is in a brilliant position just outside the towns centre. An added advantage of staying at the campsite is that the local buses also depart for the Wine Fight from the campsite, so it makes an ideal base for tourists to locate themselves.
For loads more information on the event including accommodation options and advice on how to prepare check out https://sites.google.com/view/winefight