Wine glass sizes have increased sevenfold over the past 300 years, research shows.
Our cups runneth over.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge have analyzed wine glass sizes, and found that the average vino vessel has the capacity to hold seven times more wine than our ancestors’ did.
The team dug up measurements of 411 glasses stemming from the year 1700 until today over online searches and through interviewing museum curators and antique glassware collectors. They found that wine glass capacity increased sixfold from 66 milliliters (just a little over two ounces, or two shots) in the 1700s, to 417 milliliters (14 ounces) in the 2000s. But sizes have spiked the most over the past two decades, with the mean wine glass in 2016-17 holding 449 milliliters, or 15 ounces (almost a grande drink at Starbucks.)
And that’s not even counting the novelty wine glasses that can hold an entire 750 milliliter bottle.
Sommelier Pamela Wiznitzer, a mixologist for Ruffino Wines, told Moneyish that, “Most serving sizes at most restaurants are somewhere between 5- and 6-ounce pours of wine.”
She likened the supersizing of wine glasses to how the traditional martini was poured in a 3-ounce glass, “which is how people were able to have three-martini lunches in the ‘60s. They were not having that many ounces (9 to be exact) of spirits,” she said.
Compare that to many modern martini glasses that can hold 9 or 10 ounces in one shot, such as Applebee’s oversized cocktails. “When people start to see that, they believe that’s what the ‘value’ size is, and what a cocktail is ‘supposed’ to be,” she said. Which is similar to what’s happened with wine glasses.
The researchers noted that a “Glass Excise” tax in the mid-18th century capped the size of many glass products, and once it was abolished in 1845 — even as glass production shifted from traditional mouth-blowing to more modern, automated techniques — glass sizes began to swell in the 19th century.
And so did our taste for wine. The juice of the grape was long only affordable to the upper class, with the general public more likely to indulge in beer and spirits. But as wine has become more affordable (hello, Two Buck Chuck), more available (as Target, Trader Joe’s, Costco and Aldi expand their palates) and better marketed to the masses, wine consumption jumped almost four-fold between 1960 and 1980, and nearly doubled again between 1980 and 2004. Today it’s a $220 billion industry in the U.S., with the average bottle topping $10 for the first time this year.
That’s also being driven by Millennials, since their generation drank nearly half of all wine (42%) in the U.S. in 2015, averaging three glasses of vino per sitting. Women are also more thirsty for it, sipping 57% of wine in the country during the same time period.
Maybe goblets are racing to keep up. “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. On top of this, we also have some evidence that suggests wine glass size itself influences consumption,” wrote lead author Dr. Zorana Zupan at Cambridge.
In fact, a 2016 study by a related research team changed the size of the wine glasses (without telling customers) in the Pint Shop in Cambridge, while keeping the serving sizes the same. And the larger stemware led to an almost 10% increase in sales, possibly because the larger glasses make it look like you’re drinking less, so you reach for another.
Size matters when we’re drinking at home, too. Research shows that most of us pour 12% more than the standard serving size of 5 ounces of wine, particularly if we’re using a wider glass. We’re also more prone to pouring more white wine, or pouring more when holding the glass in our hands instead of placing it on a table.
So when a restaurant pours its wine into a larger or wider glass, which is actually designed to release the aromas and flavors of the wine, “It’s a mind trick. You might think you are getting a smaller pour, but you’re really not,” said Wiznitzer. “It’s like when you put a burger on a small plate, it looks huge — but if you put it on a large plate, it looks smaller.”
We eat – and drink – with our eyes.
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