Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Saturday 12 September 2009

A Glass Half Full

Following yesterday’s post, we at the tavern have been selflessly investigating the contents of Britain’s wine glasses.

Remember the days of cheese’n’pineapple hedgehogs and Black Forest Gateau? If you do, then you’ll remember that in those days a wine glass was small and round (unless you were posh and had special ones) and held about 125ml.

They were tough, those little glasses, and able to stand up to the rigours of everyday life and mulled wine. The Sandi Toksvigs of the wine glass world, what they lacked in size they made up for in character and robust durability.

Then along came the willowy long-stemmed style icons. Slim-legged and elegant, they were photographed wherever beautiful people were gathered for a convivial glass. They found their way into sitcoms and property shows, soap operas and films, providing us all with something to aspire to.

Meanwhile advances in dishwasher technology meant that placing these slender beauties in the top rack no longer meant opening the door two hours later to the heart-sinking scrunch of broken glass. Even pubs began to offer wine in them, hoping to attract the image-conscious drinker.

And instead of the paltry 125ml of the 70s, these glasses held 250ml, a third of a bottle. In fact, a quick visit to M&S website reveals that the full capacity of their medium wine glass is 320ml, while their large ones can hold an eye-popping 450ml – nearly a full pint.

No-one is suggesting that you fill these glasses up to the top, but they do help reinforce the constant drip-feed of suggestion that a bottle each is a reasonable amount for a quiet evening in. The media abound with comments to that effect, particularly in relation to young women, and must bear some responsibility for the high levels of consumption reported for that group.

However, with a legal drinking age of 18, the consumers are, by definition, adults. They have been bombarded with messages about safe limits and units, yet some will still choose to drink to excess, just as some of them choose to smoke despite graphic health warnings.

The most effective way to reduce consumption among the young and impressionable would be to use the same methods as the advertisers. Find some way of making small glasses stylish, of suggesting that the big ones are out-of-date and ugly – it takes far more effort to get through a bottle if your glass has to be topped up at least five times.

Sadly, unless the Department of Health signs up a PR genius in the near future, it’s about as likely to happen as London Fashion Week employing models who are five feet tall. Meanwhile, here at the tavern, we resolutely cling to the habits of our youth and a cupboard full of little round glasses.


(For a more philosophical examination of alcohol consumption, I recommend this from Demetrius at the Cynical Tendency.)

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