When it comes to crazy festivals, Spain is able to deliver in abundance. A little town called Haro, in La Rioja, northern Spain boasts a wine festival that’s definitely worth a visit. The small town, which is full of rich architectural and cultural heritage, with great bodegas of red Roja wine, is host of the annual festival called ‘La Batalla del Vino de Haro’ (The battle of wine).
Every year on the 29th of June, the day of the patron saint San Pedro, the Haro Wine Festival takes place. The history of this festival goes back to the 13th century, with a border dispute between Haro and its neighboring village of Miranda del Ebro. Officially, it was only in 1965 when it was proclaimed as a national and touristic festival.
Haro’s population is only 11,500. But that number almost doubles when the legendary “Battle of Wine” takes place. This festival is aptly named for the chaotic “wine warfare” that ensues. Participants rise early on the 29th, dress in traditional white and red outfits, and follow the mayor of Haro, resplendent on horseback, through town. The festival starts off very ceremoniously, complete with flag and mass, but ends with fun chaos filled with everyone splashing each other with wine in whatever container they can find; whether it is a bucket, jar, or even water guns.
The Spanish fiesta is like no other: Messy, sticky but undoubtedly exuberant, juvenile and magnificent in a unique location. If looking for fun with the scenic beauty of a romantic town like Halo, then this festival should be on your bucket list.
A Rioja itinerary
Besides attending this spectacular festival, the bodegas ins this area are some of the absolute best in Spain. Located right next door to each other, all of them can be easily visited on foot: Muga, Rioja Alta, Lopez de Heredia, CVNE, Cruzado, and Roda. For those spontaneous at heart, most of the bodegas offer tasting rooms without booking in advance. But for a tour, sign up beforehand to not miss out on this unique experience.
Need more inspiration on where to start? Then check out Wine and Soul Suites as they are well located and only a short journey from the wineries and food spots.
Bodegas Roda S.A.
Bodegas Roda was founded in 1987 by the Rotllant-Daurella family. After a turbulent start in 1991 with poor quality wine, the family made a 180 and the following year they were able to produce wines of exceptional quality. The key to their success was the purchase of the best and oldest vintage Rioja.
Now planted in their vineyards which stretch over 60 hectares, the varieties of Rioja include Tempranillo, Garnacha Tinta, Graciano and Mazuelo. In their cellar, the wine age in 2000 barrique barrels made of French oak.
These would include the “Roda I,” vinified pure from Tempranillo from at least 30-year-old vines and “Roda II” a blended Tempranillo of good barrels. The wines that cannot be classified as a Roda, the “Tinta” are sold as cask wines to other producers. And last but not least, the “Cirsion” introduced in 1998, is not to be missed as it uses an extreme selection of the oldest and best grapes.
With a welcoming and hospitable host, a private tour of the facility and tasting of the exquisite wines on offer is a wondrous experience. Definitely worth your while.
Av. Vizcaya, 5,
La Rioja, Spain
Established in 1932, the Muga estate was taken over by Manuel, Isabel and Isaac following the death of their sibling, who was the previous owner, in 1969.
With wine produced the old-fashioned way, the estate owns 70 hectares of vineyards, with 100 hectares of grapes purchased, namely, the Tempranillo, Garnacha Tinta, Mazuelo and Viura varieties. Over 17,000 barrique barrels made of French and American oak are available for ageing. The most famous of which include “Gran Reserva Prado Enea” and the cuvée “Torre Muga“. Of these, about 100,000 cases (1.2 million bottles) of wine are produced annually, about 30% of which is exported.
A must try is the Prado Enea Gran Reserva 2011 which was amongst the best 10 wines of “Top 100 cellar selections 2020” by Wine Enthusiast. The wine also boasts the highest score, 96 points, in “Rioja Gran Reservas: Evans selects 10 to try” by Decanter.
Barrio de la Estación, 2,
La Rioja, Spain
Brothers Raimundo and Eusebio Real de Asúa together with Isidro Corcuera Cinco founded CVNE in 1879. The family’s estate covers 520 hectares of vineyards which provides two thirds of the grapes for the red Rioja. It is no surprise, then, that they have become legends for their extremely long-lasting Riojas, which can be kept for over 30 years.
The product range includes the red Rioja brands “Cune“, “Graciano” (pure Tempranillo), “Viña Real” and the flagship “Imperial“, as well as the white Rioja “Monopole“. These wines fill tanks with 17 million liters capacity and 22,000 oak barrels for barrique aging.
A noteworthy wine is the Imperial Gran Reserva which was enlisted in “Best Red Wines to Drink This Year” by Departures. If looking for a velvety wine that pairs well with all types of food, bringing sweet fruitiness with spicy notes to the fore, then this is a must try.
Enjoy a tasting of 2 of their entry level wines with a group tour. Visit Cvne for more information.
Av. Costa del Vino, 21,
La Rioja, Spain
Bodegas y Viñedos Gómez Cruzado
Bodegas y Viñedos Gómez Cruzado was established in the late 1800s. For nearly 30 years, the winery was not well known as the bodega sold all its wine to Mexico. However, once the locals took over ownership and invested in an extensive overhaul of the facilities which was completed in 2005, the winery is ready to take on the 21st century.
Employing modern techniques, this relatively small winery produces about 200,000 bottles a year. The primary collection of wines reflects the rich history of the delicate wine style of Haro’s Barrio de la Estación which is defined by the unique sensory experience the cold Rioja brings: delicate flavours with deep silkiness. The Rioja versatility is encapsulated in the Terrior Selection where Gomez Cruzado explores the varying characteristics of the wine borne from specific plots of land.
Cruzado’s bold winemaking skills has been praised by journalist Tim Atkin: categorizing the 100-year-old winery as “second growth”, including its Terrior Selection among the year’s best, and awarding all of its wines between 90 and 96 points.
All in all, visiting this winery presents a wonderful opportunity to taste well rounded reds with refined fruity notes.
Av. Vizcaya, 6,
La Rioja, Spain
López Heredia – Viña Tondonia
Don Raphael López de Heredia y Landeta founded López Heredia – Viña Tondonia in 1877. Today, the winery is run by María José López de Heredia, now in the fifth generation of the family. The family do not shy away from producing wine with old-age old traditions.
Classic Rioja varieties such as Tempranillo, Garnacha Tinta, Mazuelo, Graciano, Viura (Macabeo) and Malvasía Riojana (Alarije) are planted over 170 hectares of vineyards. Fermentation takes place in large wooden vats, and 15,000 barrique barrels are available for wine maturing, which are made exclusively from American oak.
In 2019, the winery took 3rd place in the World’s Best Vineyards competition. The winery produces the brands “Viña Bosconia“, “Viña Cubillo” and “Viña Gravonia“, as well as the top products named after a vineyard, “Viña Tondonia Tinto” and “Viña Tondonia Blanco“.
A tour at this bodega offers a journey through the unique landscapes of old vineyards in Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa. History and modernity meet when exploring the Rioja wine production. Don’t miss out on the chance to visit the boutique winery where immaculate presentation meets warm intimacy.
Av. Vizcaya, 3,
La Rioja, Spain
La Rioja Alta, S.A.
La Rioja Alta was founded in 1890 by five families, with the company now a public limited entity. With vineyards covering 450 hectares in Briones, Cenicero, Fuenmayor, Labastida and Rodezno, the use of grafted vines and conversion mostly to bottling has made the winery very successful.
The relatively short maceration period of only two weeks, combined with unusually long ageing period in barrels and bottles, has made the Rioja one of the best in the region. There are also over 50,000 barrique barrels available for the aging process.
The wine that La Rioja Alta has become infamous for, is the “Gran Reserva 890“. This historic and impressive wine, with a nod to its foundation in 890 included in the name, is blended from at least 85% Tempranillo, as well as Graciano and Mazuelo. The ability for the wine to withstand time is due to the fact that it matures for six to eight years in American barriques and another six years in the bottle. Only then is it marketed after 12 to 14 years at the earliest.
Another wine not to be outdone is “Gran Reserva 904.” This wine, first produced in 1904, is also an 85% Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo blend, that at least ages four years in barriques and four years in the bottle.
In addition to this winery, the company also owns Aster, Lagar de Fornelos and Torre de Oña.
For unique and memorable experiences, including guided tours and private dining, book an overnight stay and enjoy the wines this winery has to offer.
Av. Vizcaya, 8,
La Rioja, Spain
If a more authentic rioja tradition is what you are after, then Rioja Wine Trips offers a tour which goes against the grain of the typical touristic wine tasting experience. Hint: Don’t be surprised if you are alone on this tour with no formal ‘tasting rooms’ to speak of.
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