Wine Glasses: They’re Getting Bigger!

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How much wine do you pour into your wine glass? Chances are, it’s more than you realize. Over the past 100 years the sizes of plates and bowls have increased, so why not the size of wine glasses?

A British research group looked at the size of wine glasses from the 1700s to the present day. Wine glasses from the 1700s held -- on average -- about 2 ounces, which is just over ¼ cup and wine glasses from the early 2000s held about 14 ounces, or 1 and ¼ cup. Glassware continued to increase in size so that the mean wine glass capacity in 2016-2017 was about 15 ounces. The large increase in capacity over the past 300 years is thought to be due to the development of specific shapes of glassware for specific types of wine, and larger glasses were considered important to truly enjoy the taste of wine. In addition, restaurant and bar owners discovered that they sold more wine when they used larger glasses.

The smallest wine glasses available today hold about 4 ounces. The typical white wine glass holds 8-12 ounces and red wine glasses hold 9-14 ounces. According to wine experts, the actual amount of wine poured into a glass should be no more than half of the total capacity of the glass, leaving room for airspace to trap the wine’s bouquet. However, unless you’re knowledgeable about wine you probably pour more into your glass. Researchers from Iowa State and the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab discovered that drinkers unintentionally poured larger servings when their glasses were wider, when the pourers held the glass in their hands, and when the glassware was the same color as the wine. When glasses were wider or when the participants held the glass, they poured almost 12% more wine. The participants poured about 9% more white wine into a clear glass than red wine in a clear glass. Another study showed that men with average body weight (BMI) tend to pour about 9% more wine than women of average BMI. Additionally, the higher a man’s BMI the more wine he is likely to pour.  However, women tend to pour about the same amount despite their BMI.

Just because a wine glass holds 15 ounces doesn’t mean we should drink that much. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a standard size alcoholic drink is equal to 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is the amount found in:

  • 12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol content)
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content)
  • 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol content)
  • 1.5 ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey)

Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. The definition is for the amount consumed on any single day and is not intended as an average for the week.

Use these two suggestions for enjoying wine in moderation:

  1. Choose a smaller size wine glass
  2. Fill your glass half-full

According to Brian Wansink, PhD, Professor of Marketing at Cornell University and author of Slim by Design:  Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life, you’ll pour on average 18% less wine when you purposefully fill the glass only half-full.

By Lynn Grieger, RDN, CDE, CPT, CHWC


  1. Zupan Z, Evans A, Couturier DL, Marteau TM. Wine glass size in England from 1700 to 2017: a measure of our time. BMJ. 2017 Dec 13;359:j5623. doi: 10.1136/bmj.j5623
  2. Wine Glasses.  Accessed 2-25-18
  3. Doug Walker, Laura Smarandescu & Brian Wansink (2013) Half Full or Empty: Cues That Lead Wine Drinkers to Unintentionally Overpour. Substance Use & Misuse,49:3, 295-302, DOI: 10.3109/10826084.2013.832327
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol and Public Health. Frequently Asked Questions.   last updated 6-8-17. Accessed 2-25-18
  5. Smarandescu, Laura, Doug Walker, & Brian Wansink (2014). Big drinkers: How BMI, gender and rules of thumb influence the free pouring of wine. International Journal of Drug Policy, 25:  1060-1065. Doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2014.07.020

Printable Handout: Wine Glass Infographic

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