Food

Top me off. Study shows wine glasses have gotten 700% bigger since the 1700s

So, um, what will 2018 goblets look like?

So, um, what will 2018 goblets look like?

(Credit: Getty Images/iStock Photo)

If a holiday reveler from 1718 stepped out of a time machine and into a pub or restaurant to order a glass of wine, they might think they were being punked (or whatever the old-timey equivalent of punked is… japed, I guess). Modern wine glasses and portion sizes are comedically colossal compared to those served 300 years ago. In fact, they've increased nearly seven-fold from the standard restoration era serving.   

According to research from the University of Cambridge recently published in The British Medical Journal, merry makers would have been served no more than 66 ml of wine (or about a shot and a half) three centuries ago, yuletide or not. Director of the Behaviour and Health Research Unit at Cambridge and study co-author, Dr. Theresa Marteau, confirms that wine portions were decidedly wee compared to the hearty half litre we're likely to consume while enjoying a glass of Pinot today. When you consider that with the exception of Keith Richards our livers have certainly not evolved over the last 30 decades to become seven times more efficient at processing alcohol - it's a sizeable jump.

For perspective, that's like you time-machine-Ubering to the year 2318 and being robo-served a "glass" of wine the size of a small aquarium to sip as you gaze out over the Martian horizon. Likely, it'd have to come with a bendy straw, unless you cyber upgrade your bicep.    

By enlisting the help of museum curators and antique specialists, Marteau's team was able to conduct a comparative analysis of over 400 wine glasses from 1700 to 2017. The findings were as clear as crystal stemware: we thirsty - our glasses are about 680% bigger. From the 18th to the 21st century, a sparse 66 ml morphed into a generous 417 ml. But the biggest jump was more recently. According to the study, "wine consumption rose almost fourfold during 1960-80, almost doubling again during 1980-2004". The last several decades alone have topped us off with another 32 ml - the average wine glass in 2017 delivers a considerable quaff of 449 ml. As a relevant aside, the study also points out that plate size and food portions have spiked over the last century.   

While the increase in wine glass size is supported by things like "greater affordability, availability, and marketing" over time, technology too plays a role. George Ravenscroft perfected the production of lead crystal stemware late in the 17th century making glasses less fragile. That robustness allowed for larger sizes to be manufactured. So, at least some of the science of super sipping lies with old Ravenscroft. An assumption can be made that all this coupled with a more is more mentality easily sets the table for a growing glass.       

The study, of course, is also careful to point out the numerous pitfalls of the jump in alcohol consumption, citing it as "the fifth largest risk factor for premature mortality and disability in high income countries and the seventh largest worldwide". There are better things to do to your body than fill it with 449 ml of Syrah. Better and more pleasurable remain non-mutually exclusive here.  

(Source: Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse)

But cardiologist Dr. Christopher Labos reminds us that moderation still makes for the merriest festivities, even if it's tough to eyeball a pour of one true serving. A proper portion of wine is 5 ounces or 142 ml, far closer to Age of Enlightenment standards. And if you've popped the cork on a 750ml bottle of Cabernet (or any other wine) says Labos, it should serve five people once. Labos puts it another way: we simply have a tendency to overpour. If you can, resist the temptation to split a bottle as people tend to do. Should that seems like a big ask maybe keep this next scientific serving from Dr Labos in mind: increased alcohol consumption has been linked to various cancers, which is to say nothing for something called "Holiday Heart Syndrome". Sadly, HHS is not a strength boosting condition brought on by Whoville carolers allowing grinchy hearts to grow three sizes in one day.    

Coined in 1978 by New Jersey medical professionals, the condition is marked by otherwise healthy patients suffering acute arrhythmias following drinking binges (like say after a weekend packed with holiday parties).

Presumably, with so much health information available to us touting the benefits of moderation, the trend towards bigger glasses of wine will taper off. Although, one does wonder if we've hit the glass ceiling on over pouring. And what will 2018 bring? Until then, a case can be made for visiting your local antique dealer and going extra retro on some wine glasses.