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A glass of Hitler Cabernet with a Mussolini chaser

Nazis still sell: movies, books, weaponry — and even wine. Italian winery Lunardelli has found marketing bliss by plastering pictures of Adolf Hitler on its bottles.

Sticking Hitler on a wine label would be marketing death for most wineries. Wine marketing, a tricky business, is not solely about what’s in the bottle: The name and the look matter. And in Lunardelli’s case, they realllly matter.

Lunardelli winery has thrown conventional marketing out the window (common decency with it) and adopted a give-em-what-they-want approach. Since the mid-1990s, Lunardelli has produced a “Historical Line” of wines, with well-known figures on the labels. Hitler, Hess, Mussolini, Stalin and Franco are all featured on multiple bottles. (Churchill and FDR make an appearance in the collection as well. Lunardelli appears to be grasping for at least the semblance of moral balance.)

The bottles include direct captions to go with the pictures: Mein Kampf, Sieg Heil, Fuhrerwein, Ein volk, ein reich, ein Fuhrer (one people, one empire, one Fuhrer). Lunardelli deflects criticism by stating on their website: “…wine of optimal quality with labels that remind us of the lives of celebrated personages of Italian and world political history such as Che Guevara, Churchill, Francesco Giuseppe, Gramsci, Hitler, Marx, Mussolini, Napoleon and Sissi.”

Lunardelli has been taken to Italian court a couple of times with charges relating to promotion of facism. According to The Atlantic, authorities went after Lunardelli for their “glorification of the perpetrators of crimes against humanity.” The charges didn’t hold up in court and Lunardelli was exonerated. The Germans have been far more vigorous in protesting the Hitler wine varieties, calling for the Italian government to force a shutdown of Lunardelli production.

In other words, the legal storm will continue for Lunardelli. In America, putting Hitler on your wine bottle might bring a financial penalty from disapproving customers; in Europe, it might bring a jail cell.

Lunardelli has turned shock-value into dollars and their website basically says just that: “… the wine company Alessandro Lunardelli has obtained a lot of attention from the media all over the world both for the originality of the idea and for the quality of the wines. Today approximately half of the bottles of wine produced by the company are dedicated to the Historical Series which by now amounts to over 50 different labels, and has become a cult object among the collectors.”

Years back, I remember a surreal Hitler incident from college. During a history lecture on World War ll, one of my classmates interrupted the professor and said he had once done yardwork for an old man who claimed to be one of the first Americans to enter Hitler’s bunker in Berlin. As evidence, the old veteran produced pictures he’d found in the Berlin bunker that he kept stowed away in an attic shoebox.

One of the pictures, the Holy Grail of the lot, showed Hitler exiting a shower — completely nude except for a tiny towel around his waist.

Hearing the tale, my professor, after picking up his jaw from the ground, declared my classmate an “idiot” and said, “Son, if anyone had a naked picture of Hitler — it would bring millions.”

Lunardelli’s dollars-for-decency marketers haven’t been able to unearth the picture of a naked Hitler yet, but if they do, expect a new genre of Lunardelli wine: Historical Nudes. Hitler, Churchill, Stalin, Mussolini and FDR — ahhhh, the horror, the horror.

TAGS: Grapes
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