Alcohol: Climate Change's Next Victim?

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Climate change has been blamed for a host of alarming phenomena, from Arctic ice melt to rising pollen counts. Warming is also bad news for food lovers, as recent reports warn rising temperatures could jeopardize some of the world's finest beer and wine.

A Czech climatologist says warming has affected the quality of his country's hops, a key ingredient in pilsner beers. New Scientist reports:

It's not just Czech hops that are at stake here, says Francesco Tubiello, a crop specialist at the European Commission and a lead author of the agriculture chapter of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. "The famous hop-growing regions of eastern Germany and central Slovakia are facing the same situation," he says.

Nor are beers the only potential victims of climate change, according to a new Greenpeace study; warming is harming France's legendary wine-growing regions:

It is becoming difficult to produce fine wines using the Pinot Noir grape on its traditional territory in Burgundy...Some wines have already lost elements of their specific personality: they are marked by higher alcohol strengths and sugar content...A culture that has taken centuries to build is now in peril and might even disappear completely.

Some French vintners have responded to the climate changes in Burgundy and Bordeaux by looking to new regions not traditionally associated with wine-growing, even considering growing grapes in England.

But many of the country's wine-makers don't want to move their vineyards and are hoping for another solution: that world leaders agree to curb climate change by cutting greenhouse emissions.

"The jewels of our cultural heritage, French wines, elegant and refined, are today in danger," a group of 50 winemakers, sommeliers, and chefs in an open letter to French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the newspaper Le Monde.

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Eleanor Barkhorn is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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