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San Vino Wine Fight & Haro Wine Festival in La Rioja

Posted by on July 9, 2017

I first came across the “San VinoWine Fight (la batalla del vino in Spanish) a few years back when researching the most epic water and food fights around the world. Inspired, perhaps naively, by the idea of strangers spraying copious amounts of wine directly into my mouth, I couldn’t wait to go!

Taking the summit at San Vino Wine Fight and Batalla del Vino in Haro, La Rioja

Taking the summit at Haro Wine Fight!

The Wine Fight takes place on the morning of the 29th June (Saint Peter’s Day) no matter what the year, and is just part of Haro Wine Festival, which goes on for days. Head to the Plaza de la Paz the night before the wine fight, for what is by far the biggest party on Haro’s calendar. A lot of people – young and old, locals and visitors alike – end up pulling an all-nighter.

For the full schedule of events and exact timings for the batalla del vino, check the programa de fiestas on haroturismo.org.

Haro Wine Festival in Plaza de la Paz

Haro Wine Festival in the Plaza de la Paz

Plus, the La Rioja region itself is perfect for a roadtrip and even more picturesque than I’d imagined, with many a sweeping corkscrew bend. (Yes, wine pun absolutely intended.)

Below, I’ve put together all the info you need to know before you go, including a map with all the key locations, so feel free to bookmark this page or share it with your friends to have everything in one place.

What are you wearing?

The traditional “dress code” is white everything – from trousers to trainers – and a red scarf. Bear in mind, anything white will never be white again, so if you happen to be a painter, lucky you, but if not, it’s not like there’s a bouncer on the door of the festival telling you to turn around and go home. The red scarves can be bought the night before for a couple of euros in the local “chino“.

How to get to the Wine Fight/Batalla del Vino?

The actual wine fight is not in Haro itself, but in the Parque de San Felices, at the foot of the Riscos de Bilibio (riscos are cliffs or crags) which lead up to the Ermita de San Felices (San Felices hermitage).

On foot

It’s just shy of 6 km (about an hour’s walk) from the edge of Haro to the hermitage, so it’s technically possible, but with all the partying and the running around, I wouldn’t recommend it. There’s also not much point, since there’s a free bus:

By bus

Free coaches go from the other side of the Tirón river, just across the bridge from Haro town centre and right next to the campsite.

When we rolled into Haro at 7 am on the dot, there was no-one waiting yet, but in the time it took us to load our weapons and prepare for battle, the queue was already multiple coachloads long.

The queue is all part of the fun though. There were plenty of itchy trigger fingers, with people finding it hard to resist the urge to “test” their equipment.

Queuing for the free coach shuttle to Haro Wine Fight at the Ermita de San Felices de Bilibio, La Rioja, Spain

Some itchy trigger fingers while waiting for the bus…

The coaches only take five to ten minutes and drop you at a Muga vineyard. From here it’s 2 km (another 25 min walk) to the very top, although you’ll run into the fighting well before that. The screams and smell of bad wine will reach you first though.

Even from a kilometer away, the wine was already running down the streets. Oh, the horrors of war!

La Rioja vineyards on the way to the Batalla del Vino near Haro, Spain

Marching into battle, through the vineyards of La Rioja

By car

It turns out there are fields even closer to the battleground reserved for parking (with plenty of space as of 8:30-ish) so if you want you can join the convoy of tractors, flatbed trucks and cars – their boots open and stuffed with revellers – and drive right up to the festivities. Some of the locals looked like they’d been set up here for hours, with music pumping and barbecue smoke filling the air.

Car park near the hermitage of San Felices for San Vino Haro Wine Fight

Party in the car park!

Let the Batalla del Vino commence!

We were almost there when the cohete (rocket) screeched into the sky to officially kick off the battle. I looked at my phone: it was 8:30. Some years it’s 8:10, some it’s almost 9:00, but don’t worry, while it’s great to be there for first shots fired, even the reserve forces bringing up the rear (those who partied too hard the night before and overslept) still didn’t miss out on any of the action.

Arriving at the Haro Wine Fight

Sweeping in from the right flank…

Soon we were in the thick of the fighting – combatants armed to the teeth with everything from traditional Spanish wine skins to back-mounted pressure washers, water pistols, buckets, and even a couple of dirty old men wielding red-wine-soaked toilet brushes. (I got caught in a spot of hand-to-hand combat with these guys myself and so can only hope that they bought them specially for the occasion.)

Splashing wine in the air at La Batalla del Vino in the Haro region of La Rioja, Spain

Wine flies when you’re having fun.

We pushed on up the trail in a bid to “take the summit”…

…however, what we found instead was a place of peace and respite. The closer we got to the hermitage, the more there seemed to be a kind of unspoken armistice in the air. Up here, a monastic silence reigned…at least until some Australian yelled, “do you think anyone would mind if I just took my top off?

Girl gets soaked in red wine at Haro Wine Fight and Festival in La Rioja, Spain

Ruth gets caught behind enemy lines

Back down in the war-zone, the battle gradually turns into a kind of rave, as people resign themselves to the fact that they couldn’t get wetter even if they wanted to. Not to mention that, had this been a real war, they would have been dead hours ago.

The epicenter of the fighting at the Batalla del Vino Haro Wine Fight

On the front line at Haro Wine Fight!

 

Where to stay?

There are plenty of hotels in Haro, plus the aforementioned campsite, “Camping de Haro“, but as we had a car, and to avoid the hiked up Haro hotel prices, we stayed just 5 km away in the unexpectedly cool little wine town of Labastida (Bastida in Basque).

Red flowers, wine-related street art murals and caves in Bastida, La Rioja, Spain

The quirky wine town of Labastida (Bastida in Basque)

Storm clouds approach in the wine town of Labastida, La Rioja, Spain

The calm before the storm…

Alright, time for a shower! Anything I missed, feel free to ask. ¡Salud!

Red wine running down street after San Vino Wine Fight near Haro, La Rioja, Spain

…and the streets ran red with…wine.

One Response to San Vino Wine Fight & Haro Wine Festival in La Rioja

  1. VR

    Seriously fun!! Wine fight!!

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