The world of academia has many pressing and serious problems to solve: finding a cure for cancer, combatting climate change, finding ways for the world to survive on scarce resources, and even exploring the reaches of outer space.

But forget all these niggling issues for a moment, because a study by Cambridge University has made a ground-breaking discovery – people drink more wine when they can buy larger glasses of the stuff.

Yes, I know, it’s shocking, isn’t it?  You wonder why this important research hasn’t been undertaken before now.  Why are we channelling resources into medical research when problems such as these have not yet been solved?

The researchers found that removing the biggest measure (250ml) from sale in bars leads to customers drinking less.  Although only 7.6 per cent less, so given that the next smallest serving measure (175ml) is 30 per cent smaller, presumably people are more capable of ordering another one than the academics realised.

The ‘fieldwork’ for this study involved researchers spending time in 21 pubs and wine bars across the south of England, essentially watching people drink.  You can just imagine the high-fives between the boffins when they realised they had got that one past the committee which doles out research grants.

Dr Eleni Mantazari, professor of the blindingly obvious at the University of Cambridge (that may not be her exact job title) is quoted as saying: “It looks like when the largest serving size of wine by the glass was unavailable, people shifted towards the smaller options.”

This is suspiciously similar to a piece of research done eight years ago by the same university. 

At the time, one of the researchers, professor Theresa Marteau, no doubt with an eye on getting another grant so she could spend yet more time in the pub, declared: “We need more research to confirm this effect.” 

Professor Marteau is the senior author of the new study, so clearly this ruse worked.

There is a serious point here, though.  At a time when we are being told we should cut down the amount of alcohol we are drinking, the amount of wine we are served when we buy a glass has been creeping up. 

Not so long ago a standard glass was 125ml.  That’s one sixth of a bottle, which is still one and three quarter units of alcohol if it’s a fairly routine 14 per cent abv wine.  But now the standard glass is 175ml – a quarter of a bottle, or two and a half units of alcohol.

That is in itself too big, but the size of glass targeted by the latest research is the ‘large’ pub measure, which comes in at 250ml, or a third of a bottle.  That is very nearly half a pint of wine, and contains three and a half units – or a quarter of the recommended weekly intake in just one glass.

The 2003 Licensing Act states that pubs and bars must offer wine in 125ml measures, but how often is that option kept well hidden in the interests of increased profits? 

Generally the question ‘small or large glass?’ means a straight choice between 175ml and 250ml – in my book, these sizes are actually ‘large’ and ‘extra-large’.

This trend has found its way into the home, where huge, balloon-like wine glasses, some of which can hold an entire bottle, are becoming commonplace.  Even a generous portion of wine looks miserly in such glassware, and it’s all too easy to consume more than you mean to.

Credit, then, to those pubs, bars and restaurants which continue to champion the sensible wine measure.  For example, Norwich’s The Wallow wine bar, where wine is dispensed from sophisticated Enomatic machines, offers 125ml or 175 ml measures, as well as a 25ml tasting measure. 

Don’t forget that you have the right to ask for a 125ml glass wherever wine is served, and you can’t be penalised financially for doing so.

I’m pretty sure that under laboratory conditions, many people would enjoy a smaller measure of good quality wine rather than a half-pint of plonk. 

All I need now is a gullible research grants committee to stump up the cash for me to test this hypothesis in the field.