Wine is associated with classy and sophisticated dinners and events, with gentlemen and women sipping on it delicately while discussing their investments and latest diamonds. But the manner in which wine is produced is hands-on and boisterous and that spirit is captured brilliantly by the Haro Wine Festival held at Haro, in Spain. Thousands descend every year to Spain’s La Rioja region and take part in the revelries that’s sure to turn everyone into varying hues of purple!
The festival is held every year on June 29th, and involves grape bashing with all of one’s might! While this sounds like a modern, fun festival, the Haro Wine Fest actually has a historical explanation of sorts. A battle traced back to a 13th century dispute between Haro and its neighbours in Miranda de Ebro about border lines led to the King ordering Haro to keep crimson banners along their border every Saint Peter’s Day and the first Sunday of every September. This eventually got dubbed The Battle of Wine in 1965.
The day begins as early as 7am with the Mayor leading a procession on horseback. The dress-code is all white with red scarves and the weapon of choice is a traditional bota bag; a Spanish leather wine satchel slung over ones’ shoulder for quick and easy wine access. This particular weapon is selected because it has the ability to jettison streams of red wine as far as the eye can see! You can see spray-guns and water-balloons, not unlike the Holi festival famously celebrated in India.
The wine-squirting is held off till the ceremonial mass at the Hermitage of San Felices de Bilibio, at the end of which, people have full permission to let loose completely. They get in touch with their inner wild child and go full Lara Croft on each other, soaking and spraying one another in wine. It’s a sight to behold and purple is the only colour the eye can see as thousands participate, having the time of their life!
By the end of it, everyone is drenched in all shades of purple from the tips of their toes to their lips! The battle ends around the afternoon and the survivors drag their purple pants back to the Square of Peace, “Plaza de la Paz” for a peaceful offering. There are bull-fights held later on in the day and at dusk, a huge bonfire is lit. Locals and tourists alike gather in the public square eating and drinking Spanish wine and delicacies. This is a delightful festival to partake in and is a must for all tourists interested in participating in an important part of Spanish history!