Wine, Beer, and the Politics of Identity in Fascist Italy


“Contesting the National Beverage: Wine, Beer, and the Battle over ‘Foreign’ Tastes and Habits in Interwar Italy”


This paper analyzes the struggles between the Italian winemaking and brewing industries over the shaping of bourgeois Italian tastes and habits during the interwar decades. During the early 1920s, Fascist Italy's Industrial Wine Lobby began unveiling a wide range of public relations and collective marketing campaigns, which were aimed at forging new "fashions" or trendy collective practices among the country's wayward middle- and upper-class consumers. The pro-wine lobby's efforts, however, were obstructed by a variety of political and commercial challenges, including a growing competition with various "foreign" beverage industries, such as coffee, cocktails, and, above all, beer. Between 1929 and 1931, Italian brewers' commercial lobbying organization, the National Beer Propaganda Consortium, launched two ambitious collective marketing campaigns of their own, which were centered on discursively intertwining the beverage's consumption with bourgeois sociability, domesticity, and "Italian" identity. Unwilling to yield any commercial ground to domestic brewers, Italy's Industrial Wine Lobby launched a follow-up, and wide-ranging collective marketing campaign in order to both defend "the world's vineyard" from the "invasion" of "semi-barbarian" preferences, as one wine lobbyist colorfully phrased it in 1935, and, equally as important, reposition Italian wine as a wholesome and fashionable "national beverage" within the eyes of the peninsula's middle- and upper-classes. By exploring these industries' conflicts over the definition and articulation of "Italian" taste and style during Fascism's twenty years in power in Italy, this study aims to shed further light on the myriad, and oftentimes complex, relationships between popular consumption, industrial "fashion" dynamics, and national identity.




A virtual talk with UCLA's Center for European and Russian Studies on wine and beer marketing battles in Fascist Italy.