This article addresses the struggle between the temperance and wine interests in South Africa during three phases: 1890–1920, 1920–48 and 1948–65. It argues that divergent outcomes were rooted in a combination of differential levels of internal cohesion and the configuration of the political arena within which the protagonists manoeuvred for advantage. Conflicting interests within the wine industry hindered collective action, whereas the temperance movement derived strength from its decentralized modes of operation and international connections. The latter pioneered mass action alongside the art of lobbying. After 1948, the wine industry turned the tables by cementing a special relationship with the National Party, while tapping into popular nationalism, youth culture, and emergent consumerism.