Researchers at the University of Cambridge have found that the capacity of wine glasses has increased seven-fold over the past 300 years, and most steeply in the last two decades as wine consumption rose.
Through a combination of online searches and discussions with experts in antique glassware, including museum curators, the researchers obtained measurements of 411 glasses from 1700 to modern day.
They found that wine glass capacity increased from 66 ml in the 1700s to 417ml in the 2000s, with the mean wine glass size in 2016-17 being 449ml.
"Our findings suggest that the capacity of wine glasses in England increased significantly over the past 300 years," said the report's author Dr Zorana Zupan.
"For the most part, this was gradual, but 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. On top of this, we also have some evidence that suggests wine glass size itself influences consumption."
Alongside increased wine glass capacity, the strength of wine sold in the UK since the 1990s has also increased, thereby likely further increasing any impact of larger wine glasses on the amount of pure alcohol being consumed by wine drinkers.
The researchers argue that if the impact of larger wine glasses upon consumption can be proven to be a reliable effect, then local licencing regulations limiting the size of glasses would expand the number of policy options for reducing alcohol consumption out of home.
Reducing the size of wine glasses in licensed premises might also shift the social norm of what a wine glass should look like, with the potential to influence the size of wine glasses people use at home, where most alcohol, including wine, is consumed.
In the final line of their report, the researchers acknowledge the seasonal sensitivity to these suggestions: "We predict - with moderate confidence – that, while there will be some resistance to these suggestions, their palatability will be greater in the month of January than that of December."