We had absolutely no idea what we were in for when deciding to attend Haro’s annual Wine Fight festival, also known Batalla del Vino (Wine Battle) or San Vino. Spaniards and visitors alike have loads of fun each summer with its many annual festivals. Of course you’ve heard of the Running of the Bulls (known as San Fermin) in Pamplona. And maybe you’ve seen some fun clips of the Tomatina festival in which a tomato war wages on each year.
But there’s another annual battle that takes place in Spain. This one is in a town called Haro, deep in Spain’s famed Rioja wine region. Here, the weapon of choice is not tomatoes, but vino (wine)! We just had to see what this Batalla del Vino (Wine Battle) was all about.
The Festivities the Night Before the Haro Wine Fight
Every year thousands of people descend onto the town of Haro, Spain, for a weekend full of carousing in honor of the country’s signature Spanish red wines that our widely produced throughout the surrounding La Rioja region.
Hotels and guesthouses book up well in advance of the Haro Wine Battle, so unless you made accommodation reservations a year or so in advance, camping in the nearby campgrounds seems to be the way to go. Stoke Travel sets up an awesome camping package that we tried out. (More details on that – and how to get unlimited free beer – later in this post.)
Upon arriving to the Stoke Travel campgrounds, people begin to make pleasantries, which after much beer and sangria, turns into full-blown revelry. That’s when it’s time to leave camp and take to the once-quaint Haro streets that have now turned into a huge party!
A big stage is set up in the main square, where a large concert commences. Meanwhile getting lost in the crowds that amass throughout the narrow cobblestone streets, you’ll find all sorts of merrymakers breaking out into impromptu concerts of their own. Trumpets and other brass instruments provide the notes for the hordes of people to belt out some apparently well-known Spanish songs, as everyone seems to sing along. It’s an awesome scene to mentally soak up while your liver simultaneously absorbs the extra alcohol intake.
People stumble into a handful of bars that dot the streets to buy drinks from the seemingly endless flow of booze. Simple and normally quite cafes suddenly became party hot spot. People occasionally grabbed a tapa to add some substance to their alcohol fueled evening before spilling back out onto the quaint yet packed streets of Haro. This is all just a raucous precursor to the actual Batalla del Vino. It goes on all night long, without any signs of quieting down.
Once midnight rolls around, you find that you have three options:
- Go to sleep at a normal time so that you can rest for the morning to come.
- Not recommended. This party is part of the Haro Wine Battle experience that you’ve come here for. Don’t miss it.
- Stay out late and sleep for an hour or two before the insanity of the wine fight.
- If you must. Just be sure you have a plan to get up by sunrise. This is what we did and it worked out okay for us. But it would be a tragedy if you were in an booze-induced coma and accidentally slept through the wine fight.
- Party until the break of dawn and then head out to the wine fight.
- This is the tradition and what most people would recommend. Go ahead, stay up and let the morning Haro Wine Battle be the culmination of an awesome night. This takes stamina and pacing, but can be accomplished with some effort.
The Batalla del Vino
The idea of the Wine Battle of Haro is to stay up all night. We lasted until about 3:00 AM, so that we could take a “nap” before all the craziness of the morning to follow. It worked for us and we were still a boozy upon wakening. It did feel a bizarre rolling out of bed to grab a beer and a mug of red wine en lieu of coffee. But, hey, when at the Haro Wine Fight!
Tradition of San Vino calls for everyone to wear a white shirt and a red scarf. Once dressed appropriately, the supplies are gathered. Red wine in boxes, jugs, buckets and whatever vessels you can find are all filled to the brim with the red stuff. The Wine Fight itself takes place on a mountain a few kilometers from town. So complimentary busses shuttle the half-drunk sleep deprived masses through the Spanish vineyards and to the mountain’s base, where a short walk begins.
Before the wine battle commences, there is a mass and some opening traditions. But by the time we arrived at the base of the mountain we noticed creeks of wine streaming down the trail. La Batalla del Vino had already begun. And this was just a small sign of what we were about to walk into.
Closer and closer, you start to feel a little splash here and there and your shirt begins to get stained. Then before you know it, you’re in the thick of it all, and you’re completely soaked. The wine battle is on!
Bug sprayers give people a nice light coat of wine, while super soakers just blast others. Yet it’s the buckets of wine that are thrown at you which really get you drenched.
And there seems to be no mercy or discrimination when it comes to the dousing. Keep in mind that it can be quite cold early in the morning on the mountainside. We witnessed some girls who were soaked, shivering away from the crowd and trying to stay warm, only to then have a fresh bucket of wine dumped all over them. Ha ha!
We even saw young children crying because the wine was burning their eyes. And then Grandpa came from behind not to comfort or help them, but instead to dump more wine all over them. No mercy! This is the Haro Wine Battle at its very best.
Inevitably during all the splashing, spraying and soaking, some vino winds up in your mouth, further fueling the party atmosphere. A party band eventually comes out to play, the singing & dancing commences, and the wine pouring just continues. The band appears to be one of the many ensembles that were getting everyone pumped in the alleyways just hours earlier during the late night revelry back in town. I’m guessing they’ve also stayed up all night and managed to kick back a few drinks. Yet they don’t miss a beat, a pretty impressive feat.
Haro Wine Fight Video
Here’s a video we put together of all the craziness of the festival of the Haro Wine Battle.
After the Haro Wine Battle
Once you’ve run out of ammo and had enough fun on the mountain, you can walk back down in defeat. The wine fight has concluded but the fun does not. You’ll find buses for a ride back to Haro. I’ve heard that it’s also possible to return using a tube or raft in the nearby river, but given the chill in the air and our drunken state, that just didn’t seem to be the best idea.
By this point, it’s good to get cleaned up. The partying continues in Haro for a little while but most wounded soldiers take their wine-stained bodies to bed. During some years they have a little bullfight in town after the wine battle, but rumor had it that this year the organizers got too drunk to do the bull fighting. Either that or we were too drunk to find it. Whatever the case, it seemed that midday and the afternoon is dedicated for resting. The day brings one long and much-needed siesta.
But that evening, another party begins. These people just don’t stop! The celebratory atmosphere is contagious and it doesn’t take too long to grab another drink and jump right back into all the fun.
The Haro Battle of Wine Experience
The wine fight is a unique experience and a crazy good time. We’ve never been to San Fermin or Tomatina, so we can’t compare it. But those we met who had been to multiple fiestas in Spain remarked that they preferred the Wine Fight because it seemed to be much more attended by locals and other Spaniards than by people like us visiting. That certainly seemed true and it all made for a really fun atmosphere. As visitors, we were the minority compared to local Spaniards. Yet we were always completely welcomed and everyone was very friendly and in high spirits. We had a blast and would definitely recommend Haro Wine Battle if you like a good party.
If You Go to the Haro Wine Fight Haro Spain 2018:
Haro Wine Battle Tickets
You do not need a ticket to participate in the Wine Fight. The event itself is free and open to the public. You simply need to have transportation to Haro and have somewhere to sleep once you’re there, both of which can be difficult to find with the influx of visitors all funneling into town for the few days.
Stoke Travel provides both accommodation and transportation to the Wine Battle, which is the company we used and recommend to experience the event. You definitely do need to reserve a ticket in advance if going with Stoke. I’ve provide more information about Stoke’s packages in the accommodation section of this post (including how to get unlimited free beer!) or follow this link to check Stoke’s availability for this year’s event.
When is the Haro Wine Battle 2018?
The wine fight is always held on the morning of June 29, the feast day of patron saint San Pedro/Peter. But you’ve got to be in Haro the day before, June 28th. If you’re interested in attending La Batalla del Vino, here are the dates and days of the week for the next few years:
- Friday, June 29, 2018
- Saturday, June 29, 2019
- Monday, June 29, 2020
What to Bring to the Haro Wine Fight 2018:
Arrive to Haro well rested, as you’ll need plenty of energy for the weekend. Pack a white shirt you don’t care about. As for the obligatory red scarf, you can pick one up in town at the party the night before the wine fight. Vendors sell them everywhere for a euro or two.
Do bring any squirt guns or other means you wish to use to deliver wine onto other people. But if you don’t have anything to spray with, don’t worry – you’ll be fine to just dump the vino directly from whatever container you have. Yet water guns certainly make the process a lot more fun.
Also, be sure to bring wine, of course. While there’s plenty of wine being splashed around at the hill, none was for sale, so you must bring your ammo with you. If you go to the wine battle with Stoke Travel, like we did, they’ll supply all the the wine you need for the fight which is included in their camping package (info on that below).
If you’re going to the wine battle independently, be sure to bring plenty of your own vino. Cheap boxed wine seems to work well.
You also may consider bringing a mask or goggles, as this will help to keep the wine from stinging your eyes while in the midst of the wine battle. You may be comfortable in a bathing suit too, but just keep in mind that it may be a bit chilly in the morning.
Above all else, just bring a good attitude and be prepared to have fun.
Where to Stay in Haro:
Be sure to book accommodation well in advance. Haro is a pretty small town that simply doesn’t have the rooms to accommodate the swell of visitors that come for the Wine Fight each year. There are no hostels in Haro. Hotels in Haro are expensive and they get scooped up way in advance of San Vino.
You can attempted checking airbnb and other alternative accommodations but you’ll still end up having to shell out hundreds of Euro for anywhere within within ten or so kilometers of Haro. When we were looking for a place to stay a few weeks prior to the the Wine Battle, we were unable to find anywhere reasonable to stay around Haro.
That’s when we discovered that the best bet for accommodation in Haro during the Wine Battle was to go with a company called Stoke Travel who organizes an all inclusive camping trip to the Wine Fight! Stoke Travel’s 2018 Wine Battle trip starts at €130 per person based on double occupancy. The trip includes tent, sleeping bags, 2 breakfasts, one dinner, boxed wine for the fight, and for an extra €30 – all you can drink sangria and beer, which all flows plentifully non stop. (Bonus: Enter ROAMING at checkout to get the unlimited beer and sangria for free!) This Wine Battle trip plus roundtrip transportation from San Sebastian to Haro runs €150. From Barcelona it’s a total of €185.
Stoke Travel Wine Battle Review
For all that is included when camping at the Wine Fight, we thought it was a really good value, particularly when considering the lack of any other reasonable accommodation in Haro during the Wine Battle. And while camping can be fun, it can also be a pain-in-the-ass. So we loved the fact that Stoke takes all the hassle out of camping by setting up your tent, breaking it down, and even cooking up a few good meals. Basically all you need to do is show up, grab one of the unlimited free beers or sangrias and make some friends. And it’s a really good fun-loving crowd of people that come with Stoke to the Haro Wine Fight!
The tents, sleeping bags, and mattresses used when we went were all good. But for those wanting more comfort, Stoke now (2018) has a glamping package for the Wine Fight that makes it almost a luxury camping experience and includes all sorts of extras, like electricity and wifi in your enormous tent!
When we first got on the bus in San Sebastian, we overheard someone talking about Stoke Travel say “They’re not the most professional company, but they’re a shit load of fun!” We now wholeheartedly agree with that. Stoke certainly knows how to throw a party! Everything went off without a hitch, we give them a good review and wouldn’t hesitate to book with them again if coming back to the Wine Fight in Haro. Updated info for the 2018 Wine Battle can be found on Stoke Travel’s website.
**Free Beer** for You During the 2018 Haro Wine Battle!
Update: Bonus! The awesome folks at Stoke Travel found our article and decided to give all RoamingAroundTheWorld readers unlimited free beer and sangria for all 3 days of their 2018 Wine Fight trip! Just enter: ROAMING when checking out at stoketravel.com.
And if you go this year, we’d love it if you stopped back by our site and dropped a comment to let us know about your experience. Cheers!
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