Christmas cheers: Wine glasses have doubled in size since 1990

Peter Terlato 16 December 2017

red wine glass fill large

That glass of red you raise to toast a Merry Christmas or Happy New Year is getting bigger and bigger.

A recent study found the capacity of wine glasses used in today's society, either at home or at restaurants and bars, are seven times as large as those used 300 years ago, and double the size of those almost 30 years ago.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge discovered increasing glass sizes matched rising demand for wine.

"Until the second part of the 20th century, beer and spirits were the most common forms of alcohol consumed, with wine most commonly consumed by the upper classes," the research paper noted.

Wine consumption rose almost four-fold between 1960 and 1980, and almost doubled again between 1980 and 2004. Greater availability, affordability, licensing liberalisation and marketing efforts have grown the industry.

The study, published in the BMJ by University of Cambridge director of The Behaviour and Health Research Unit Professor Theresa Marteau, revealed wine glass capacity has risen from 66 ml in the 1700s to 417 ml in the 2000s. The mean wine glass size in 2016/17 was found to be 449 ml.

Why did glasses get bigger? Two changes in the 20th century were likely contributing factors. Wine glasses began being altered in both shape and size to suit different wine varieties and for appreciation purposes. Additionally, from 1990 the US market began demanding larger wine glasses, which echoed around the globe.

However, in Australia, Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) laws restrict servers to pouring just 150mL of red, white or sparkling wine (1.4 standard drinks) and 60ml for port and fortified wine (0.8 standard drinks). This means that despite the substantial increase in glass size over time, serving sizes shouldn't change.

RSA laws don't apply at home or when travelling abroad, which encompasses a sizeable share of consumption.

The research also found some evidence that suggests wine glass size actually influences consumption levels. In 2016, Professor Marteau carried out an experiment at the Pint Shop in Cambridge, altering the size of wine glasses while keeping the serving sizes the same. She found that this led to an almost 10% increase in sales.

Spoil wine lovers with a vino-themed Christmas gift and discover the latest beer, wine or spirits discounts.

Picture: Shutterstock

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