We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Ullage?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Ullage is a Middle English word which means “the space at the top of a barrel, bottle, or cask.” It is used in a wide variety of industries to refer either to the liquid missing from a container, or to the space left behind by that missing liquid. This term commonly pops up in assessments of bottles of wines, in which ullage can be a critical factor in the determination of quality and cost, especially in older wine bottles.

The roots of this word are rather interesting. Ullage is derived from the Latin oculus, “eye,” a term which was borrowed to refer to the bunghole in a cask. The French adopted this word as ouiller, “to fill a cask,” and the Normans brought it to England as “ullage,” using it to refer to the fill level of casks up to the bunghole. Eventually, ullage came to refer more generally to the empty space in any sort of container, from a bottle of juice to a rocket.

In wine, ullage is critical. Ullage happens over time as the wine in the bottle slowly evaporates, and the ullage level can change radically if the wine is handled badly or the cork is faulty. Ullage is usually described in terms of the shoulder and neck of the bottle. Many new wines are filled all the way to the neck, with the ullage slowly slipping past the shoulder over time. In looking at lists of old wines for sale, you may have noticed references to “ullage” which are used by buyers to get some clues into the condition of the wine and the cork.

If the ullage in a bottle of wine is significant, it can promote oxidation, which will cause the wine to go off. For this reason, wine barrels and bottles must be periodically topped off, ensuring that the level of wine stays high. Some wineries offer a recorking service on older vintages, allowing consumers to bring in bottles of wine so that their corks can be removed and the bottle can be topped off before being resealed.

When a new bottle of wine is purchased, if there is a lot of space in the bottle, it can be a sign that the cork is in bad condition, and the wine may have spoiled. For this reason, it's a good idea to check wine in the store before purchase to assess the ullage. When buying older vintages, ullage should always be considered, and if the ullage is high, the seller should be asked if the wine has been topped off. Topping off prevents oxidation, but it can also impact the flavor of the wine and its value.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.