Wine Glasses Are Seven Times Larger Today Than They Were 300 Years Ago
New research in the U.K. suggests wine glass sizes have increased most rapidly in the past 20 years.
If you feel like wine glasses today are bigger than they used to be, you’re right (which is one of the reasons it’s so hard to figure out how to pour a proper serving). In fact, new British research suggests that wine glass sizes have been increasing since at least the 1700s when they were only about a seventh of the size they are today. However, you don’t have to be 300 years old to have noticed a significant difference: The study found wine glass sizes in the U.K. have actually increased most rapidly over the past two decades.
The findings come from scientists at the University of Cambridge who looked at the measurements of 411 wine glasses dating as far back as 1700. Though 18th-century wine glasses had an average capacity of 66 milliliters, by the 1900s, the average wine glass held 230 milliliters, and in the 2000s, the average size had ballooned to 416 milliliters. Specifically looking at glasses from the past two years, the current average was found to be 449 milliliters—or well over half a bottle of wine. And keep in mind, that’s on average. Multiple modern glasses from the study came in at over 750 milliliters, more than a bottle.
Of course, plenty has changed in 300 years: The way both glasses and wine are made and appreciated is completely different. “Increases in wine glass size over time may reflect changes in several factors including price, technology, societal wealth, and wine appreciation,” the study states. Beyond the technological and financial resources that make larger wine glasses possible, plenty of wine aficionados will quickly remind you that a wine glass is not to be filled: The extra room is to let the wine breath. However, separate research suggests that larger glasses can lead to more consumption, inadvertently or not. It’s a concern of this research team as well.
“Our findings suggest that the capacity of wine glasses in England increased significantly over the past 300 years,” Dr. Zorana Zupan, one of the study’s authors, said according to the Guardian. “Since the 1990s, the size has increased rapidly. 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” which in the U.K. is 125 milliliters.
Lead researcher Theresa Marteau, director of the Behaviour and Health Research Unit at the University of Cambridge, had a slightly more definitive takeaway. “Wine will no doubt be a feature of some merry Christmas nights, but when it comes to how much we drink, wine glass size probably does matter,” she said. At the very least, if you are trying to be responsible about your drinking, understanding the possible ramifications of the size of your wine glass is worth keeping in mind.