Wine glasses in restaurants should be no bigger than 250ml, Public Health England says as study shows smaller glasses reduce how much you drink
Sommeliers and restaurateurs have complained this could ruin fine wines
27 February 2020
Wine glasses in restaurants should be no bigger than 250ml to prevent binge drinking, a study has found, as Public Health England says these findings could be used to change the law.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge found that people who eat out in restaurants drink less when they are given a smaller glass.
In restaurants, when glass size was increased from 300ml to 370ml, wine sales increased by 7.3 per cent. Reducing the glass size to 250ml led to a drop of 9.6 per cent.
The researchers believe this is because in restaurants, wine is commonly served from a communal bottle or carafe, leading people to pour more than a standard serving size, but still counting that measure as one glass of wine.
They concluded that drinkers may not be able to tell the difference between a 250ml, a 300ml glass and a 370ml glass.
Wine glasses have doubled in size since the 1990s, with public health experts blaming super-sized glassware for a rise in binge drinking.
The study’s authors have said that this research could be used when drafting licencing legislation, forcing restaurants to use smaller glasses.
“Given our findings, regulating wine glass size is one option that might be considered for inclusion in local licensing regulations for reducing drinking outside the home,” senior author Professor Dame Theresa Marteau said.
Public Health England agreed, and said this could lead to a new alcohol policy approach.
Clive Henn, their senior alcohol advisor, explained: “This interesting study suggests a new alcohol policy approach by looking at how the size of wine glasses may influence how much we drink. It shows how our drinking environment can impact on the way we drink and help us to understand how to develop a drinking environment which helps us to drink less.”
However, restaurateurs and sommeliers have said forcing them to use small glasses could destroy the bouquet of fine wines.
Daniel Keeling, who runs the popular Noble Rot wine bar in Holborn, Central London, said this rule would force restaurants to use “inappropriate glassware”.
He told The Telegraph: “I’m not against moderate servings, but as aromas account for most of what’s tasted, great wines need space in a glass to be exposed to oxygen to make them more expressive, and a mouth narrower than the widest point of the glass to prevent aromas from escaping.”
Michelin-starred restaurants often have a sommelier on hand to make sure appropriate measures are poured.
David Moore, who owns Michelin-starred restaurants Pied a Terre and L’Autre Pied in London, said: “That’s ridiculous, it’s complete nanny state bulls—, it’s down to how much wine is in the glass rather than the size of the glass.
“In a restaurant where you have a sommelier, you’re never going to have more than 75ml in a glass at any time.
“A sommelier in a restaurant is never going to overpour and will make sure there is fair play on the table.
“Some wines need a bigger glass than others, if you have a big, heavy-structured wine that is young, it needs more surface area to breathe and develop. You’re also not going to be able to enjoy the wine as much without swilling it, if you have a 100ml serving in a 250ml glass, if you swill it it’s going all over your dress!”
Guests who want to binge drink will do so regardless of glass size, some restaurateurs said.
Emma Underwood, the General Manager at Darby’s restaurant and bar in South London, explained: “Of course restaurants should be allowed to serve wine in larger glasses. Many prefer it, and it should be the guest’s choice. Big bold red wines that haven’t been able to decant long enough certainly benefit from it. I can understand how a larger glass might contribute to higher consumption, but generally if a guest wants to drink a lot then they will do regardless of glass size”.
Policy experts do not believe that banning restaurants from using large glasses would cause public health to improve.
Christopher Snowdon, the head of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs added: “The idea that wine consumed in restaurants has any significant impact on the number of alcohol-related deaths is just daft. Most people only visit restaurants occasionally and most alcohol is consumed in the home. The people who are most likely to suffer from alcohol-related diseases do not have the money to drink wine in restaurants in any case. It is a sign of how out of touch public health campaigners have become that they think the size of wine glasses is a pressing issue that requires government action.”