TechThe beer will be worse, and the wine better. You won't guess why

The beer will be worse, and the wine better. You won't guess why

Changes in the beer market
Changes in the beer market
Images source: © Canva
ed. KLT

1:44 PM EDT, October 13, 2023

Climate change can significantly affect the taste of alcohol. Beer will suffer, but wine is to benefit. Scientists report on how climate change affects these two drinks in the pages of Nature Communications and iScience.

Despite efforts aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we still observe an increase in the average temperature on Earth, which is a result of human activity. Forecasts indicate that within the next five to seven years, the critical barrier of 1.5 degrees Celsius will be exceeded, which may have serious consequences for our planet.

One of the aspects affected by global warming is beer production. Hops, which are one of the key ingredients in beer, are increasingly threatened by climate change. Hops are added to beer before the brewing process to increase its bitterness, or later to change the overall taste. Hops also have preservative properties for the finished beer.

Scientists from the Czech Academy of Sciences (CAS) and Cambridge University have conducted an analysis of data from 1971-1994 and 1995-2018 and discovered that yields of European hops are decreasing. In some key hop growing areas, production has fallen by almost 20 percent. Experts predict that warmer, longer, and more arid summers will further worsen the situation and may contribute to an increase in beer prices.

Additionally, the content of alpha hop acids, which influence the bitter taste of beer, has decreased due to higher temperatures. Forecasts indicate that by 2050, their content could even decrease by up to 31 percent.

Martin Mozny from CAS, co-author of the article, warned hop growers that failure to adapt cultivation techniques to changes could threaten its profitability in some areas. This may result in lower production and higher prices for breweries.

Experts recommend moving crops to higher ground, where there is more rainfall, and installing irrigation systems. However, further investment will likely be needed, and the hops cultivation area may need to be increased by about 20 percent.

Wine will benefit from climate change

On the other hand, climate changes may have a positive effect on wine quality. The quality of wine produced from continually growing grape varieties in the same vineyard often changes from year to year. As scientists from the University of Oxford have shown, the weather plays an important role here.

After analyzing detailed meteorological data from 50 years (1950-2020) and sommelier ratings from the winemaking region of Bordeaux, researchers have found that higher quality wine is produced in years with higher temperatures and earlier, shorter growing seasons with warmer and moister springs, hot and dry summers, cooler and dry falls, and cooler, moister winters. As the climate changes, there are expected to be more of such years.

Generally speaking, the quality of wine in Bordeaux showed a tendency to improve between 1950-2020. Although this may have resulted from the warming climate during this period, the increasing use of technology in wine production or the adaptation by manufacturers of their techniques to consumer preferences could also have played a role.

Scientists have focused on Bordeaux, because it is a winemaking region irrigated solely by precipitation, which also has long-term records concerning wine quality. Wine evaluation is subjective and unblinded, which means that wine critics know the origin of the wines they are tasting.

Unlike previous studies, which focused solely on the weather during the vegetation period, this study also examined the influence of weather during the winter period. As the first author, Andrew Wood of the University of Oxford, quoted by the BBC, said, scientists have found evidence that the impact of temperature and rainfall occurs throughout the year.

- The tendency - regardless of whether it comes from wine critics' preferences or the general society - is that people generally prefer stronger wines, which mature longer and provide richer, more intense flavor, higher sweetness, and lower acidity - Wood pointed out. - Generally speaking, with climate changes around the world, we observe that wines become stronger as the temperature increases.

Because climate change is causing weather phenomena in Bordeaux that are beneficial for the quality of wine, the authors believe that the quality of wine from this region will probably continue to increase. But only until the rainfall decreases.

According to the authors of the publication, the obtained results can be applied not only to wines from Bordeaux, but also to other winemaking regions. They intend to conduct further research to confirm this. As they suspect, annual weather fluctuations and climate changes also affect the quality of yields from other perennial crops, such as cocoa or coffee.

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