When it comes to Festivals the Spanish know how to organise unusual ones. From a baby jumping festival ‘El Colacho’, a snail festival ‘Aplec del Caragol’, a goat throwing festival (I ‘kid’ you not!) to the famous ‘La Tomatina’ Festival…Spain comes top of the leader board for weird and wonderful.
There is one other particular festival that is also worthy of inclusion in the long list of bonkers, juvenile, crazy and fun-filled festivals: La Batalla del Vino.
This festival is held annually on ‘El Día de San Pedro’, which is on the 29th of June. However, the celebrations commence the day before and continue afterwards.
There are various theories on how and why ‘La Batalla del Vino’ began but one is that in the 6thC when the patron of the city of Haro, San Felices of Bilibio died, people made pilgrimages to the spot where he was buried in the caves of Bilibio, located just 6km from Haro. Sometime during the 20thC baptisms were held at the Chapel of Bilibio and patrons were anointed with wine rather than water. Over time these baptisms became more celebratory and the wine battle was created.
Another widely reported theory is that ‘La Batalla del Vino’ began as a result of a land dispute in the 13thC. Every year on the 29th of June, the city of Haro had to mark property lines with purple banners between their community and the neighbouring community of Mirando de Ebro. If the town officials of Haro failed to mark these boundaries the land would be recorded as belonging to Mirando de Ebro. After a mass at the Chapel of Bilibio nearly 500 years later, the territorial marking procession to Bilibio ended in a huge celebration where people started to throw wine at each other. This eventually became an annual tradition, which ultimately created ‘La Batalla del Vino’ in 1965.
The Festival of ‘La Batalla del Vino’ commences the night before the actual wine fight so you need a serious amount of stamina and a strong liver to attend the biggest party of the year …and then have enough energy to continue through the day on the 29th June!
The night of the 28th of June is essentially a giant, raucous street party with brass bands playing, everyone singing and dancing on the streets and an endless supply of alcohol and tapas oozing from the local bars and restaurants. The idea of the festival is to party until dawn and then head straight to the wine fight afterwards, which kicks off at 7 am.
It is also tradition to wear a white t-shirt and red scarf during the festivities:
From 7 am complimentary buses pick people up from Haro (with all of the seats appropriately covered in plastic… just a sign of things to come) and begin to take them to the base of the mountain, San Felices de Bilibio. When you reach the Muga winery everyone is dispatched from the buses and it is approximately a 1km walk up to the ‘battleground’. A short mass takes place and then carnage ensues.
By 11 am the ‘battle’ is pretty much over. Everyone has been dyed a deep shade of pink, the wine is running in rivulets down the side of the mountain and the brass bands begin the trek back to Haro for the afternoon festivities. Some people camp up in a field near the battle site to set up barbecues and continue their festivities. Others take the complimentary and by this time, very vinegary smelling buses back to Haro.
In June 2018, in celebration of a couple of landmark birthdays, a group of us took the plunge to attend this particular festival. We prepared ourselves with water pistols, cheap wine, white t-shirts, red scarves, big sunglasses and a wineskin of decent wine for drinking!
We very quickly realised our measly 1€ water pistols were not a match for the weapons some people were equipped with, particularly when you are up against fertiliser sprayers, cauldrons and super soakers. Tractors also drove up and down the mountain, containing huge barrels of wine ammunition.
After the wine fight, which ended very quickly, we dragged our sorry sights back to Haro via the complimentary buses and continued to party in the town.
You may be asking why would you do this?! Well, why not…you only live once so you might as well do something that makes you laugh for hours and creates memories that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Would we do it again? Bring it on!!!
· Book accommodation well in advance or take a look at the camping option with Stoke travel: https://www.stoketravel.com/trip/la-batalla-del-vino-wine-fight-festival/
· You don’t need to buy tickets, the battle is free and open to the public
· Don’t wear clothes you plan to keep…they are unlikely to survive
· Wear comfortable shoes for walking, jumping, running and dancing
· Goggles are a good idea if you don’t want the wine to sting your eyes
· Don’t trust anyone!