Batalla del Vino: A Wine Fight and Sleepless Night

My first Spanish summer has been a split between back-to-back, crazy fiestas and weeks dragging by at a rural summer camp. I haven’t had a minute to get my thoughts out, so this week I’m doing my best to document this summer before Jay and I leave for our tour of Italy on Friday.

First, I have to go back to the end of June for Haro’s Fiestas de San Juan and the infamous Batalla del Vino!

Dressed in the Spain’s traditional festival outfits (all white with a red pañuelo) our group loaded onto the buses for a 45 minute bus ride from Logroño to Haro, the wine capital of La Rioja.

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Tons of people fill the streets of central Haro. Groups of friends and entire families spend the night gathering for pintxos and botellónes. We congregated in front of the cathedral, drinking kalimotxo and trying to keep warm! I’m not sure what was up with summer this year but the months of June and July were pretty cold here– exactly the opposite of what I expected from summer in Spain!

The night continued with random parades, a live-music concert, and dancing. My favorite part was gathering in a plaza to climb on top of benches and lamp posts to dance along to the music. We were there for hours cheering along and passing around beach balls that people threw from balconies. Besides the fun-loving atmosphere, I think my favorite part of Spanish fiestas is that everyone participates, you’ll see anyone from young kids to the elderly out until 3:00!

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We were out for 12 straight hours– my first true taste of fiestas in Spain. As the sun rose, people slowly gathered their groups and gear to head outside the city for the trek to the wine battle.

The battle is located at the base of a nearby monte, called the Cliffs of Bilibio. It’s a pain to get to after a night like we had just had, but there are shuttle buses running to help you out. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the masses of trucks filled with wine and people having a free for all soaking the newcomers!

We enjoyed ourselves, but I regret not bringing more supplies! I believe the wine provided is for everyone, but you will definitely have a hard time “filling up” without being attacked. When we first arrived I went to the first truck I saw and sheepishly said “Quiero vino!” for my bota… The men responded by dumping the tub of wine over my head! Rookie mistake. The photos I have we’re taken from my iPhone through a Ziploc bag so they aren’t the best, but I think they can convey the chaos!

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RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE WINE BATTLE:
If you can, go with a friend who has a car! That way it will be possible to store dry clothes and your supplies. We planned ahead and put our things in plastic bags, but Jay’s bag was soaked regardless.

Bring warm after clothes just in case! I wanted to leave much earlier than planned because I was drenched and freezing.

If you’re not lucky to have a friend with a car, make sure you check the bus schedule. The Battle took place on a Sunday, which meant there were only 2 buses back to Logroño that day… Cue passing out on the small patch of grass near Haro’s bus station!

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