July 16, 2015

Wine... Is it time to measure?

“Am I getting as much as I’ve paid for?”

That’s the question many consumers seem to ponder when drinking wine at a bar or restaurant — and rightly so. How does a consumer know when they are receiving the correct volume serve?

With a mixed drink, value for a customer is simple: a jigger is filled and a shot is measured, but in wine there lies confusion. Consumers are constantly faced with a huge variety of wine glasses, and almost every glass manufacturer has a different idea on what the volume capacity should be for each.

Head into a restaurant using a smaller sized glass and it may be filled to the brim, but visit a venue using a larger volume glass, and a the serve is just a quarter of the way up the glass.

While we in hospitality may easily spot even small variations in bowl size, the communication is not as clear for most sitting at the table.

With the exception of certain European countries where it's the law to serve wine in consistent volumes mentioned on menus and signage, other markets (such as the US, Canada, Australia and many Asian countries) have no obligation to advertise or even advise what a serve entails.

Some venues use glassware with white lines or etchings (called plimsoll lines) to help determine when a correct serving of wine is poured, however consumers are still largely kept in the dark as to what quantifiable amount that measure actually is. 

Though plimsoll lines may be better than nothing, they are still at best an estimate of where a designated volume line should be. In many instances the correct volume serves for each category can vary quite significantly – 120mL, 90mL and 60mL, which is the line delineating? Add in Champagne, fortified, and desert wines and additional classifications only further the complexity.

If a customer goes into a supermarket and buys a bag of grapes, they’ll be charged by the standardized weight of the grapes, but ironically, ask to be served the liquid from grapes in a wine bar and the calculated cost is treated very differently.

In an age of transparency, accountability and expectation there is a call for the “glass of wine” to become more tangibly understood. Is it time for wine serves to be standardized and measured just like their spirited brothers? In short, yes.

Consumers have a right and expectation: what is paid for is exactly what they should be getting by volume.