Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni and an entourage of ministers attended the world’s biggest wine exhibition last week in a bid to flaunt the country’s wine-making prowess.

“Wine is not just an economic phenomenon,” Ms Meloni told journalists at the Vinitaly fair in Verona, where a Caravaggio painting of Roman god of wine Bacchus, on loan from the Uffizi museum, was displayed.

“Wine has been praised in literature and in poetry; it has been painted by great artists. Wine is a fundamental part of our identity.”

It is becoming a habit for the country’s nationalist government to speak about Italian food and drink in such glowing terms.

Francesco Lollobrigida, the agriculture minister and Ms Meloni’s brother-in-law, has eulogised Italy’s olive oil producers on social media, and described Ireland’s plans to include cigarette packet-style health warnings on wine bottles as “an economic attack in disguise”.

He has also announced he is devising measures to crack down on so-called Italian restaurants abroad that do not sell authentic Italian products.

Last month, Italy announced it would become the world’s first country to ban the production and sale of lab-made meats with fines of up to €60,000 (£52,700) for violators.

It passed four new decrees forcing pizza and pasta makers to use labelling clearly flagging the use of protein-rich flour made from crickets, locusts and insect larvae. The EU had approved the use of insect flours earlier in the year.

Italy is one of the EU’s biggest crop producers and the world’s biggest wine producer, with sales of the fermented beverage generating €31.3bn (£27.5bn) last year, according to official figures announced at Vinitaly.

The government’s recent policies have won support from industry leaders. “Italy has had the courage to defend our food,” Ettore Prandini, president of the powerful Coldiretti agricultural association, told i. “The government cares about Italian producers. It cares about Italian identity.”

The aim of such policies is “cultural rather than political,” Pier Luigi Petrillo, a law professor at Rome’s Luiss University, told i. “This is an expression of an aversion to cultural diversity and globalisation. Food speaks to the hearts of the people.”

Ms Meloni’s government, Italy’s most right wing since the Second World War, has cracked down on migrant boat crossings to Italy, and introduced heavy fines for Italian companies, universities and government officials who use English words.

Like those policies, some of the recent food initiatives have sparked heated debate.

Luciano Conti, professor of applied biology at the University of Trento, told i that lab-grown meats could cut greenhouse emissions by 90 per cent, as well as reducing both deforestation and the use of water in animal farming.

Mr Prandini retorted that developed countries should tackle overconsumption of meat rather than promoting synthetic meats.

Alberto Grandi, a historian at Parma University, recently sparked outrage in Italy by claiming many of the country’s food traditions are recent inventions.

Speaking to i, he said the government’s attachment to an imagined past would compromise its future development as an agricultural leader.

“They seem to think the future is macaroni and pizza,” Professor Grandi said of the government. “One day we’ll wake up and realise we’ve excluded ourselves from technological and scientific advancement.”

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