A bestselling Italian wine featuring labels depicting dictators like Hitler and Mussolini is to finally stop selling after the vineyard passes into new hands.
The Vini Lunardelli vineyard began selling the dictator wine in 1995 and after a wave of outrage, sales went through the roof thanks to the publicity.
Owner Alessandro Lunardelli started selling the bottles of “Hitler” wine in 1995 after the success of his “Mussolini” label back home in Italy.
Lunardelli said he started the dictator line after a customer requested a bottle with Mussolini’s picture on it. He claimed at the time that the wine was apparently made with grapes from a vineyard once owned by Yugoslavian dictator Josip Broz Tito.
The decision to add Hitler was not an obvious choice as Hitler was a well-known teetotaller, and instead it happened when a bar owner in the northern city of Bolzano requested wine bearing Hitler’s image.
The Hitler wine has been on the market with the slogan “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer” (“One People, One Realm, One Leader”) and has variations with pictures of Erwin Rommel and Hermann Goering.
Lunardelli said the labels carrying phrases such as “Sieg Heil” (“Hail (To) Victory”) and “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer” (“One People, One Realm, One Leader”) were made for the German market.
The vineyard has earned vast amounts catering mainly to German and Austrian tourists with publicity over the abortive attempts in Germany and Austria to stop the sale sending profits “through the roof”, according to Lunardelli.
Germany even asked Italy to act to stop Lunardelli, a move that he said at the time had helped him reach thousands of new customers all across Europe thanks to the publicity.
He was also sued in Italy over his Mussolini wine but escaped fines and jail because authorities said it could not be proven that he was promoting fascism.
Lunardelli rejects any allegations that he is promoting fascism and Nazism and points out he also offers bottles with pictures of Marx, Stalin, Lenin and Che Guevara.
“It’s strange that Stalin murdered 15 million people, but there is no fuss about the bottle. And for the labels with Hitler and Mussolini I ended up in court,” said Lunardelli.
On its website, the firm says the labels “remind us of the lives of celebrated personages of Italian and world political history such as Che Guevara, Churchill… Hitler, Marx, Mussolini, Napoleon.”
“Getting sued was the best thing that could have happened,” Lunardelli said at the time in a telephone interview with Central European News from his company’s headquarters near Udine on Italy’s border with Austria.
He added that officials should understand the line is purely a commercial enterprise that was not designed to make any political statement or endorse the policies of any leaders featured, on the right or left.
But nevertheless, the wine was widely popular in far-right circles and with supporters of the European dictators.
Disgraced Croatian wartime general Branimir Glavas for example had several in his collection.
He even posted a snap of them with himself in the background on his Facebook page.
Glavas was convicted of war crimes and then released after a retrial was ordered for the killing of Serb civilians in the city of Osijek in 1991. It included one victim who had battery acid poured into his mouth. Others were tied up with duct tape and tortured in front of a garage.
News that it the wines are to be discontinued from next year was announced by Lunardelli’s son Andrea, who was also accused alongside his father in the court case over the wine, which they eventually won.
But he said that after he takes over running the vineyard next year, in 2023, he will discontinue production as he did not like it and was fed up with the constant controversy.
He insisted however that the move was not because of the criticism and simply because he wanted to stop it.
He said that anyone who bought Hitler wine was simply “a collector, or remembers history, or wants nationalism against the current policies of multinationals – not against Jews.”