The Haro Wine Festival is one of the most important wine festivals in Spain and was declared a festival of touristic and national interest in 1965.
Every year thousands celebrate the Haro Wine Festival in the La Rioja region of northern Spain. Haro is a town famous for its high quality Rioja wine and its yearly Battle of Wine (Battle de Vino) celebration which takes place every year on on the 29th of June, Saint Peter’s Day (el día de San Pedro). The Haro Wine Festival is one of the most important wine festivals in Spain and was declared a festival of touristic and national interest in 1965. In 2004, Haro also started a special wine battle celebration for young children.
The history of the Haro Wine Festival dates back to the 12th century to a land dispute between the people of Haro and the neighboring village, Miranda del Ebro. King Ferdinand III of Castile would finally resolve the issue in 1237 via an executive letter which would later serve Judge Sancho Martínez de Leiva as a legal basis for establishing the legal boundaries between the neighbors. The judge also ordered that Haro town officials mark their property lines with the town’s purple banners every year on Saint Peter’s Day as well as the first Sunday of each September. If this task was not completed, the land would then belong to Miranda del Ebro. To complete this task, a procession to the Bilibio cliffs was organized on ever 29th of June.
The Battle of Wine seemed to have occurred for the first time in 1710. According to records, after attending the mass and worshipping the patron saint, a celebration broke out in which the people started throwing wine at each other. The famous tradition was born that day and would gain tremendous popularity in the decade of 1945-1955. During this time the tradition earned the name “War of Wine” which would eventually be changed to the Battle of the Wine in 1965.
The Haro Wine Festival begins at 7 am in a procession of locals, young and old, dressed in white shirts and red scarves carrying an array of jugs, bottles, wineskins and any other container suitable for holding wine. The Regidor Síndico, or town mayor, leads the group on horseback through the streets of Haro and then out of town, making their way to the 5th century San Felices de Bilibio hermitage church located at the Bilibio cliffs (riscos de Bilibio).
Once everyone has arrived, the mayor hangs the city banner on the highest rock and this moment marks the beginning of a religious mass. Following the mass, the famous battle of wine begins.
The Haro Battle of Wine is a peaceful battle between two opposing sides. It is a free- for-all in which everyone pours wine on their opponents relentlessly until everyone is drenched from head to foot. All weapons are valid in this bloodless Haro wine battle: buckets wineskins (botas in Spanish), sprayers and anything else that can be used to hurl, spray or launch thousands of liters of wine all over the crowd. The wine throwing battle decorates the cliff side with wine and leaves a sea of wet, pink shirts everywhere, a truly exciting spectacle.
After the Battle of Wine, the Haro Wine Festival continues. At around noontime everybody starts to head back to the city. In the Plaza de la Paz the celebration continues where they eat, typically snails, and then walk around the plaza. Later in the evening, the Haro Wine Festival Bullfights take place in the town’s bullring. The bulls used are actually smaller female heifers known as “vaquillas”. They are much less dangerous than male bulls are used to entertain the general public.
The Haro Wine Festival Bullfights mark the end of another year of one of Spain’s most famous wine festivals.