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Our Massive Wine Glasses Are Out Of Control

They’ve ballooned by seven times in the last 300 years–a phenomenon that illustrates how design influences what we eat and drink.

Our Massive Wine Glasses Are Out Of Control
[Source Image: urfinguss/iStock]

Gulp. New research has discovered that the average wine glass is seven times larger than it was in 1700. And we’re probably drinking more as a result.

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As highlighted by The Guardian, University of Cambridge scientists measured the volumes of 411 stemmed glasses sold in England over more than three centuries. And what they discovered is a very clear trend line of growth, in which the average glass started at a mere 66ml and ballooned to 449ml in 2017. Keep in mind, these measurements were taken when the glasses were filled all the way to the brim (which is simply not how we fill a wine glass or ever have). But for a point of comparison, a 750ml bottle of wine could have topped off 11 glasses in 1700. Now, it could fill a measly one and a half glasses.

Our forefathers would look at our contemporary wine glasses like zany Carrot Top props–or whoever was the Carrot Top of 1700. (I really don’t know my prop humor history, or my wine history, or my history in general.)

[Source Image: urfinguss/iStock]
A larger glass has its benefits: a wide glass allows more of the wine’s surface area to touch oxygen, which enables the fragrance to reach your nose. But unfortunately, studies have found that people have a tendency to both eat and drink more when served via larger dishes and cups. U.S. guidelines suggest that women should have no more than seven drinks per week, and men no more than 14 drinks per week, with a drink being defined in wine terms as a 150 ml pour. Unfortunately, not many of us consider 150 ml a full glass of wine anymore. In the U.K., at least, the study’s authors point out that larger stemware has led to wine pours at bars and restaurants to hover closer to 250ml. And on top of the additional volume of drink, the alcoholic content of wine has been growing on average, too.

[Image: BMJ]
In other words, we’re drinking bigger glasses of stronger wine than ever before. Which on one hand, sounds like progress of a sort? And on the other, is unhealthy by design. To counteract the stemware arms race, the study’s authors suggest that bars might standardize their wine glasses to fewer milliliters. And retailers might price their wine glasses according to size, perhaps convincing thrifty consumers to buy stemware that would coax them to consume more reasonable amounts of alcohol.

Of course, it’s hard to imagine us turning back now. We might as well just take things to their natural conclusion and drink out of one of those gag glasses that can fit an entire bottle at a time.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started Philanthroper.com, a simple way to give back every day.

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