San Vino

 

Spain has hundreds of festivals each year, and for some bizarre reason many of these festivals involve throwing things. At La Tomatina tomatoes are thrown, at other festivals goats, and at the Spanish festival I attended in Haro, Spain, the item of choice to throw: wine.
Haro is located in the north of Spain, thus giving me the perfect excuse to pick up my good friend Theresa Beno who is living in Pamplona. Theresa is, beyond a doubt, one of the rare kinds of people who are always, and I mean absolutely always, down to have a good time. Last year, I spent an absolutely ridiculous weekend with Theresa in Chicago for St. Patricks day, and now we were meeting up in Spain to attend La Batella De Vino  – the wine battle in Spain.
Theresa had to babysit the morning before we had to catch the bus – and she ended up having to RUN onto the bus about a minute before it was leaving. I had been standing outside the bus for about a half an hour trying to decide how to stall the bus until she showed up. I had just decided to climb onto the windshield when Theresa made her tardy appearance – we were on our way!
The drive had incredible views and we drove by many pueblos, vineyards, rolling hills and many shades of green.
Arriving in Haro, we pulled into a campsite loaded with vans and makeshift campsites. Then, at the back of the camp, we heard loud music and saw tent city…this is where we were staying. Stoke Travel, the company we traveled to Haro with, had set up a full bar, tents, and massive party area for our relatively small group. It ended up being a lot of fun, but at first I felt bad about the amount of space and ruckus our group was causing in the otherwise peaceful park.
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Once dusk struck, our camp was just a player in the chaos. More Spanish people piled into the campsite and the entire place erupted with music and dancing. Theresa and I partied at our camp with two Australian girls we met, enjoyed the BBQ and then headed into town at about 2am.
The town was in shambles. People were hanging off statues, sleeping in allies, and multiple music stages were blasting live music with an enormous crowd swaying to the beats. Haro is a small town in La Rioja region – and though I knew it would be a party, I was shocked at the magnitude I was witnessing.
We stayed downtown all night, then headed back to camp around 6am. We ate a breakfast with others who were just awaking or returning from the night out like us, and at 7:30 we started our hike up the hills to the wine battle grounds.
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It was an incredible morning walk traveling through vineyards. Everyone dresses in white for the battle, so we were faces in a massive exodus of people hiking through otherwise deserted vineyards. On our way, we caught glimpses of people with water guns and massive jugs of wine. These foreshadowing glimpses could not prepare us for what we walked up to when we arrived at the “battlegrounds”

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We ran right into the center of the fights with people of all ages, from kids to the elderly, splashing us with wine. The more aggressive participants dumped buckets on each others heads. Large trucks lined the perimeters and blasted out wine from firefighter style hoses. It was unbelievable to wipe my eyes clear of wine, then look around me and realize that full grown adults were throwing wine on each other.

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Besides our group from Stoke, the event was entirely local. Nobody really knows when the fight started, or why, but it is an event ingrained in the culture of Haro and an event that is looked forward to each year. For me, attending once was enough. I wore a white rain jacket that didn’t hold the purple color of wine, so I was always a target being the only person with an inch of white-ish colored clothing. After about the fifth bucket of wine dumped on me, I was ready to take an observer stance of the event.

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Observing lasting a solid 5 minutes until I was back in the action. For as ridiculous as the event was, it was also a lot of fun connecting with Spanish strangers by throwing wine on each other.
 A small piece of me was cognizant about how hedonistic the event is, and how gluttonous it is to be covered head to toe in wine. But, this is culture in Haro. Children and grandparents alike laughed together and splashed each other. It is a bizarre, though magnificent local tradition and a huge testament to the ability of the small town of Haro to enjoy life, abundance and pleasure.
Posted on by Reagan J Payne in Part II, Uncategorized

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