It’s goes against rational logic to spill red wine on purpose. Growing up it was the one liquid above all else that you do not spill. So when you do, it gives you a naughty little rush. This story is about not just spilling the taboo stainy liquid but going to war with it, at La Batalla Del Vino!
Remember having water fights when you were young. Squirting a super soaker over your brother, sister or anyone who came in range. Dodging water balloons like Rambo dodging grenades. Staying dry until Dad sneaks up with a bucket of water and drenches you through.
La Batalla Del Vino aka San Vino wine fight is the grown up version of that memory. Your super soaker is now full of wine. Your Dad, he is replaced by fifty crazy sixty-year-old local men. They have a sadistic look in their eye while grinning ear to ear. Their buckets are again, full of red wine.
Feeling not so fresh on a fresh La Rioja morning I was kicked awake. It was 6am. With 2-3 hours sleep and a hangover bouncing the walls of my skull. Throwing red wine over each other seemed far less appealing than when we had first signed up. Bleary eyed I found my friends at breakfast, each looking how I felt.
We loaded into a bus that drove us the 5km up to the battlegrounds. All dressed in white with red scarves. A little excited, a little nervous and a box of some cheap red for ammunition tucked under our arms. The bus drops everyone at the bottom of a rocky hill. As we climbed, the scene was slowly revealed. The first victims of the front lines were retreating down the hill. Red spatters on their face, some smears on their white shirts. These were the lucky ones.
As we got further up the hill I noticed a torrent of brownie-red liquid streaming down in the gutter. I looked up and saw two girls crying. Their blonde hair was dripping purple, all their white clothes were purple, they were shivering cold as the sun was yet to warm the cool morning air.
When we reached the top, the true carnage became apparent. A gauntlet with tractors on each side of the road had been formed. The old men I mentioned earlier had occupied the high ground and with gallons of ammunition were bombarding anyone and everyone.
Blam!!! I took a bucket of red to the face. Eyes burning, instincts take over. Time to fight back!
Pressing forward nobody was spared. Man, woman or child. Anyone with white remaining on his or her costume became a target.
When you reach the summit you find everyone dancing, shouting, soaking and being soaked. Everyone is purple head to toe and despite the odd stray drop of wine collecting your eyeball, it’s good fun.
Once you’re wet… you can’t get any wetter so you may as well just have a good time!
By 11am it is all over and the majority of locals have retired to the car park. Fire’s rage and meat is grilled. The good drinking wine comes out and as everyone dries off they tuck into some traditional Spanish food. These are not stalls selling food like ordinary festivals, these where locals enjoying the company of their families in a tradition which has been ongoing since the 13th Century.
Hungry and cold we made some local friends. With the poco Espanol we knew and the small English they knew we could communicate enough and have a good laugh and break some bread together. They were so concerned that we were barefooted they assumed we were also malnourished. It must have looked that way being slightly drunk and in desperate need of a hot shower.
La Batalla Del Vino is an authentic event like no other. The numbers of locals involved still outweigh the tourists. Though I advice you get in quick! As soon as the word spreads about this amazing festival it will become like so many others. I fear for the locals whose traditions may be spoiled by monetization and the increase in tourist numbers. Hopefully for the local’s and this special tradition, it won’t.
Stoke Travel are the guys to book with for this trip. They look after everything, supplied the wine and provided a really cool atmosphere everyone can enjoy! We totally recommend booking with them here.