Wine glasses seven times larger than 300 years ago: study

Wine glasses seven times larger than 300 years ago: study

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, a study in the UK has found.

Wine consumption increased almost four-fold between 1960 and 1980, and almost doubled again between 1980 and 2004, researchers at the University of Cambridge in the UK said.

"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," said Theresa Marteau, Professor at Cambridge.

Marteau and colleagues looked at wine glass capacity over time to help understand whether any changes in their size might have contributed to the steep rise in its consumption over the past few decades.

"Wine glasses became a common receptacle from which wine was drunk around 1700," said Zorana Zupan, first author of the study published in The BMJ.

"This followed the development of lead crystal glassware by George Ravenscroft in the late 17th century, which led to the manufacture of less fragile and larger glasses than was previously possible," Zupan said.

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 mililitres (ml) in the 1700s to 417 ml in the 2000s, with the mean wine glass size in 2016-17 being 449 ml.

"Our findings suggest that the capacity of wine glasses in England increased significantly over the past 300 years," said 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," said Zupan.

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.

The 'Glass Excise' tax, levied in the mid-18th century, led to the manufacture of smaller glass products, researchers said.

This tax was abolished in 1845, and in the late Victorian era glass production began to shift from more traditional mouth-blowing techniques to more automated processes.

These changes in production are reflected in the data, which show the smallest wine glasses during the 1700s with no increases in glass size during that time-period - the increase in size beginning in the 19th century.

Two changes in the 20th century likely contributed further to increased glass sizes, according to researchers.

Wine glasses started to be tailored in both shape and size for different wine varieties, both reflecting and contributing to a burgeoning market for wine appreciation, with larger glasses considered important in such appreciation, they said.

From 1990 onwards, demand for larger wine glasses by the US market was met by an increase in the size of glasses manufactured in England, where a ready market was also found.

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