The battle of wine in Haro
They say that the tradition of going on pilgrimage to Bilivio Crags comes from the XV century where the master of San Millán (Felices de Bilivio) lived and died. A chapel was built in his name in the eighteenth century and every 29th of June a mass and subsequent lunch was held for the festival of San Pedro.
It seems that the lunch following the pilgrimage, washed down with plenty of wine, always ended in jokes between the pilgrims who then smeared each other with wine from their “botas” (leather recipients filled with wine). Special amusement came from smearing wine spots on women who did not want to spoil their clothing and for this reason it seems there was a time when the influx of staff was scarce until again in 1949 when the feast was revived in full force. From then on it was called the "Battle of the Wine".
The cliffs of Bilivio can be found a mere 6 km north of Haro and every summer the jarreros go up there on pilgrimage where the Ebro river makes its entrance into La Rioja, loaded with all kinds of containers that serve as weapons to throw the wine. They come with their traditional bota bags, bottles, cans, or backpacks equipped with sprayers filled with wine in order to stain the others in the best and the fastest way possible.
To have a great time and participate in the fun celebrations, you only need to follow these simple rules:
- Dress in white with the typical red bandana
- You have no friends during the battle, anyone can shoot you
- You can throw wine on your neighbor from a plastic bottle, water pistol or any other recipient that isn’t glass so as not to endanger any of the participants
- Have a good time during the battle
- Stain any part of the clothing that is still white
The battle usually ends when all the wine is on the ground that is why you need to take to time to replenish your strength by eating snails, typical for this occasion, or some good lamb chops that are roasted on wine shoots.
After the procession, the groups come back singing to the sound of music until they reach the town center to parade through the Plaza de la Paz and continue the festivities through the streets of Haro.
This festival has been taking shape over the years and from June 24th when San Juan is celebrated, the town has festivities until the day of the Battle of wine of Haro on the 29th of June. Other parallel activities are held in the city during these days, such as a children's battle. Because the influence of these festivities has become much more important it has been declared a Festival of National Tourist Interest since 2011.
If what led you to the wine festival is your love for the delicious wines of the Rioja, you must also visit some of the ancient cellars that are in the neighborhood or in the vicinity of Haro. Names of historical winemakers like Muga, López de Heredia, CVNE, or RODA deserve a tour to be booked in advance.
Spending a few days in Haro, besides enjoying the Battle of wine and local cuisine with tapas at La Herradura, you can stroll through the streets enjoying its historical heritage, churches like St. Thomas, the Basilica de la Vega, or the Convent of the Augustinians, along with the palaces of the Condes de Haro, or Paternina which show the economic strength that Haro had in the XVI, XVII and XVIII centuries.