Ullage comes from the French word ouillage. Ullage refers to the space in the top of a bottle that is empty.

Ullage is the name for the space at the top of the bottle between the wine and the cork (or screwcap). There needs to be a little space there because wine is a liquid - it expands and contracts with temperature changes. Of course the consumer doesn't want there to be too MUCH space, because they want as much wine in the bottle as possible.

Many wineries do not have air in this space, because they feel air sitting against the wine would harm it. Instead they use nitrogen or other gasses which they feel will not interact with the wine.

In older bottles, the ullage indicates where the wine has evaporated out of the bottle. Corks are not completely air tight. Older wine bottles typically have more space, or ullage, because more of the wine has evaporated away as it has aged.

Often it is hard to see the ullage in a bottle, because the winery has put a foil or paper wrap around that area of the bottle to hide it. You would have to peel off that outer covering to see the ullage area.

Ullage also refers to the empty space in a wine barrel between the top of the wine and the barrel's inside. In this case the winemaker would fill up that space by "topping off" the barrel with wine that was held aside for this purpose.

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All content on the WineIntro website is personally written by author and wine enthusiast Lisa Shea. WineIntro explores the delicious variety and beautiful history which makes up our world of wine! Lisa loves supporting local wineries and encouraging people to drink whatever they like. We all have different taste buds, and that makes our world wonderful. Always drink responsibly.