Considering the Icewine festivals in Canada last week, I couldn’t help but explore wine festivals in all months. In anticipation of WineCollective’s Spanish Wine month in February, I was pleased to find my search yielded a country rich in wine history, tradition, and several wine-themed festivals to celebrate it all.
“Spanish wine has a long history, with vines growing in the diverse and primarily arid country since 4000 B.C. If one knows Spain they know the country is enamored with its history and traditions and do not give them up easily, for good or bad. But it’s only in modern times, after much of Spain’s wine industry broke with its centuries-old tradition of viticulture and winemaking that the country’s wines have risen beyond their reflexive and derisive plonk perception.
Quality and quantity have improved, immeasurably influenced by the French wine industry to the immediate north and by adopting modern winemaking practices without abandoning the best from the past. Today… the nation produces world-class ranking wines and offers some of the best wine values anywhere. Ironically, while Spain is one of the world’s oldest wine-producing regions, its star has only begun to rise recently.”
Spain is a country that loves wine and WineCollective loves Spanish wine! They’re the world’s third largest wine producer, they drink it abundantly, and they celebrate it far more than most countries. At times, they even drench themselves with it.
Such is the case with my favourite of the many Spanish wine celebrations. The Haro Wine Festival takes place every year on June 29th in the town of Haro in the Spanish La Rioja region. In honor of the patron saint San Pedro, the festivities begin bright and early. People of all ages don their whitest whites, pack containers of red wine, and follow the mayor in a procession through the town to the Hermitage of San Felices de Bilibio. After observing mass, it’s time to cut loose and get soaked! If you’ve ever participated in a water fight, you know that if somebody leaves dry, they’re doing it wrong. The Batalla de Vino (Battle of Wine) in Haro takes this a step further; by the end of it all, you should be soaking wet and stained purple.
Here, the white shirts present their purpose. As folks begin to throw wine at each other with abandon, the town (certainly not a dry county by any stretch) takes on a pinkish hue. By noon, everyone is dyed, wet, and ready to continue the celebration with a mild bullfight.
I think we can all agree that this town knows how to throw a party.
Of course, if you’re looking for a way to enjoy the Spanish selections in your February package without staining your clothes (or spilling your wine!), consider one of my favourite Spanish traditions and enjoy a tapas night. Have some friends over and serve a wide variety of small bites, or check which local restaurants feature tapas on their menu.