As you may have gathered by now, we started our journey in Spain to coincide with the Batalla del Vino, a festival held each year in the wine producing region of La Rioja where locals (and loads of Australians) throw loads of wine at each other.
It started many many years ago as a dispute between vineyard owners but has since developed into a hugely popular event held on the day of San Pedro where thousands of litres of wine gets tossed everywhere over a manic 3 hours.
The week, until Friday 28th, had been rather quiet. Whilst there was plenty happening, there were virtually no tourists as we’d expected until that evening when bus-loads of people turned up on organised trips specifically for the battle. Curiously, they all seemed to be Australian. Maybe they just love a good piss up?
We were (and to some extent still are) a bit confused about how it was all going to go down, where to go and when it all started. We woke about 6:30am to a very noisy campsite and with the sun not yet risen, we got dressed and ventured out. Many people were already on their way so we set off on the 8km walk to San Felices where the battle takes place.
As we were making our way there, we were passed by scores of people sat in trailers, singing, shouting, hanging out of vans and piled into cars filled with vats of wine, until one of then pulled up by our side and gave us a lift.
The owner of said vehicle was a very nice Spanish guy (right) who owned a bodega in Haro and was bringing several large containers of not-so-tasty wine to the fight. Along the journey we and the van’s other occupants shared a bottle of 2006 Reserva red from his own collection. Very tasty it was indeed, even straight from the bottle.
When we arrived, it was already chaos and it wasn’t long before we were both totally soaked in wine. It was flying from every direction, people with buckets, water guns, agricultural sprayers and bottles were spraying everyone in sight. And apart from the few obviously foreign girls that were crying because they had wine in their eyes, everyone was in the party mood.
At this point, I’ll leave you some pictures and a video that I took on the day as they do a better job than I can of depicting the pandamonium.
After an hour or so, thoroughly soaked, we walked back to Haro for some breakfast.
Here are some things we learnt from our first wine fight:
- It kicks off at 7 but getting there for 8am worked pretty well as it can be very cold early in the morning.
- You’re better off taking a bucket and not bothering with anything to spray it with.
- You can bring your own wine, cartons from the supermarket are about 80 cents for a litre however they do have plenty of wine there but be prepared to get soaked trying to get any of it.
- If you’re in the mood, take some nice wine to drink as you’ll not want to drink what’s being sprayed about.
- Your shoes will stink of red wine forever.
- Wine in the eye stings like mad, so bring goggles if you’re sensitive about your eyes.
- The best days for the festival are 28th and 29th, they seemed the most fun.
- Spanish people love a good party.
- Australian people love a good piss up.
- Taking a waterproof camera is a good idea, I used a Nikon AW100 which was better than good.
After the battle and a shower, we jumped on our bikes and headed the 30 miles to Logrono, but that’s another story…