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Let them drink less wine

March 25, 2009 |  5:14 pm


Shock horror alert:

Pubs will soon be forced to offer patrons smaller glasses of wine, according to Britain's Daily Mail. It's part of the government's efforts to curb the cult of binge drinking and also to not encourage women to exceed a safe limit of alcohol.

The Mail article notes that, in the U.K., "a standard glass of wine used to be 125 ml -- around one unit of alcohol. But most pubs now serve wine in a 'small' 175 ml glass or a 'large' 250 ml glass -- as much as a third of a bottle of wine." And, the article further notes that "one in 10 bars use 250 ml as their standard size, which with certain strengths of wine can ... contain 3.5 units of alcohol -- enough to put a woman over the driving limit and exceed safe drinking limits."

I can speak for the mega-serving trend. Just two weeks ago, I was in the U.K. and went out with a sibling for a demure evening on the town involving a glass or two of wine at a pub or two. The glasses were behemoths! Filled to the brim! We surely had but a couple before popping round to visit my (practically teetotaler) brother and sister-in-law and treating them and our young nephew to an hour of witty banter and a knocked-over mug of coffee. If the mini-glass option had been available, I am sure this would not have happened.

The new, mandatory mini-servings would be offered in 125-milliliter glasses.

-- Rosie Mestel

PS: A number of reader comments make it clear that the tongue-in-cheek intention of my remark, "If the mini-glass option had been available, I am sure this would not have happened," may not have registered with all. For the record, it was tongue-in-cheek. But I don't think offering the option of a smaller glass of wine is a bad one, just as it's not a bad idea to offer people smaller servings of food in restaurants instead of the (also behemoth) portions so many places serve up.

Also for the record, re: a comment below, no driving was involved in the above-mentioned evening.

Photo: F. Carter Smith / Bloomberg News

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Comments (9)

I think it's good that people will be offered an option to have less wine if they choose. But you had "a couple" glasses of wine filled to the brim and got a bit drunk, but wouldn't have if the glasses were smaller? Seems odd, especially in the UK where the amount of alcohol you are served is already closely regulated. I'm sure you knew or could easily have found out how much wine was in your glass and determined how much you want to drink. Other than the behavioral economic point of view that you would feel more guilty drinking 6 glasses of 125ml than 3 of 250ml, why would a smaller glass make you less likely to overindulge? Also, what poor form to pour to the brim of any sized glass!

The UK is extremely weird about how they serve alcohol. On the one hand I love that when you order a pint of beer (preferably a delicious real ale), it is 20 oz. of beer, by law, and the bartender generally pours it that way. In the US, bars use all kind of tricky glassware to give you less beer than you might think you are getting, and also have no respect for a proper pour, often leaving a few ounces of beer out of the glass by serving it 3/4 full, just because they are cheap or careless. On the other hand, I don't see how these rules really help anyone drink less. If you intend to get drunk you will, no matter how many glasses it takes you, as the binge drinking in Britain certainly demonstrates.

i think this sounds very reasonable.

What's wrong with catching a buzz at dinner? This smacks of big-brotherism to me.

Now the UK's big government wants to dictate the size of containers for beverages being served to adults? And... they find this acceptable? Would it be okay if they did this with beer, too? What about soft drinks? What if they said, "It's better for you if you drink 2L of water, so you'll now be required to drink that before you drink anything else," - would that be acceptable?

I think big government has shrunk the size of freedom's goblet to the point that we can no longer tell the difference between its sweet taste and that of bitter oppression, both in the UK and here, in the US.

If you were too drunk to be proper company for your brother, you were too drunk to drive to his place.

But that's a personal failing, not the fault of the restaurant which served you two glasses of wine.

Just another slap in the glass to personal responsibility. As if the largess of the glass had anything to do with how often it touched your lips. 'One wine two straws' might be an option.

You cannot control the amount of alcohol a person consumes and that is that. If so we would not see people laying on park benches and in alleys sleeping it off. So a lady has two glasses of 125 ml in less than an hour and she is at the 250 level with no problem.
The only ones to profit here are the pubs who will charge more for the 125 ml glass and then double it to get the old less expensive 250 glass. The main factor is time. If the woman sips her wine slowly (like a lady) she will be better off with the larger glass than another women at the next table who gulps down three or four smaller glasses in 30 or 40 minutes.
End of story.

Wow, what a bunch of scolds. Everybody just relax. It appears we don't have as much to fear from Big Brother as we do from our fellow citizens. I'm sorry Ms Mestel felt the need to submit a post script. She should have said bugger-off.

I'll drink a 250ml to that! Cabernet @ room temp. Plz.Tnk.U.


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