Research published in the BMJ from the University of Cambridge has shown that the size of the average wine glass is seven times larger than it was 300 years ago, with the steepest increase in capacity taking place over the past two decades.
The past three centuries have also seen changes to the design of glassware, with engraved wine glasses becoming more common.
University of Cambridge Director of Behaviour and Health Research, Professor Theresa Marteau, says her team found the growth of wine glasses was down to several legal, social and economic factors. For example, after 1745 an excise was levied on glass products. The duty was determined by weight, leading to manufacturers putting limits on the size of their glassware. The team’s data shows an increase in glass capacity which correlates with the abolition of the tax in 1845.
During the 20th century, a trend began for wine glasses to be tailored to the variety of wine to be served in them. Larger glasses became to be considered important for proper wine appreciation. Particularly after 1990, English manufacturers moved to increased glassware sized due to demand from the United States.
A final point highlighted by the study is the greater affordability of wine since the middle of the 20th century, with associated changes in licensing laws and marketing. The research team even considers the size and design of drinking glasses to be part of the attractiveness of wine, being an ‘environmental cue’ that may better catch the eye.