Capacity of wine glasses has increased seven-fold over past 300 years

Modern wine glasses are seven times bigger than they were in the 18th century

The capacity of wine glasses has increased sevenfold in the last 300 years and most steeply in the last two decades, a study has found.

They've been increasing in size over the last 300 years, and most steeply in the last two decades - and researchers believe this growth may be to blame for our increasing wine consumption.

'Whether this led to the rise in wine consumption in England, we can't say for certain, but a wine glass 300 years ago would only have held about a half of today's small measure.

So, Theresa Marteau and colleagues from the University of Cambridge's Institute of Public Health set out to investigate whether changes in wine glass size over time might have contributed to the steep rise in wine drinking in the past few decades, and whether reducing wine glass size may help cut consumption.

The study involved online searches and chats with experts in antique glassware to obtain measurements of 411 wine glasses from 1700 to modern day. They found wine glass capacity increased from 66 ml in the 1700s to 417ml in the 2000s, with the mean wine glass size in 2016-17 even higher at 449ml.

Alcohol is the fifth largest risk factor for early death and disability in high income countries‚ the study noted.

The scientists, from the Behaviour And Health Research Unit in Cambridge, believe this could be driving consumption rates, which increased nearly four-fold in Britain between 1960 and 1980, and nearly doubled again between 1980 and 2004.

Their findings, published in the British Medical Journal, reveal the biggest increase has been in the past 30 years, with glasses almost doubling in size from an average of 230ml in 1990.

"We sought to measure the capacity of glasses used for unfortified wine (excluding sparkling wines) with a stem and foot that have been available or sold in England from 1700 to 2017", they wrote, adding that they contacted museums, retailers and other sources. Until the 1970s, wine was largely a drink of social elites.

Alcohol consumption, and wine consumption in particular, have increased sharply since the 1960s - reflecting greater affordability, availability, and marketing of alcoholic products, as well as more liberal licensing.

"Reducing wine glass sizes in licensed premises may also shift the social norm of what a wine glass should look like, potentially influencing the size of glasses people use at home - where most alcohol, including wine, is drunk". In the past, we drank most of our alcohol as beer in the pub; now we drink much of it as wine at home.

Thank you for your feedback. "Inevitably some succeed - which certainly increases sales and forces up consumption".

The Wine and Spirits Trade Association said sociological trends were probably part of the reason for the growing wine glasses.

Increases in the size of wine glasses over time likely reflect changes in a number of factors including price, technology, societal wealth and wine appreciation.

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