Glossary of Wine Purchasing Terms & Meanings

When appraising a bottle of wine there are 3 major categories that need to be looked at, this often will determine the resale value and what quality the wine is in. Ullage, Label & Capsule. In some instances the packaging can lead to a higher price.

Term What this Means How this Relates Why this Matters How it Affects Price Measurement
Ullage/Fill Level Ullage refers to the level of the wine inside the bottle and where it sits in relation to the bottle The loss of wine from bottles occurs through evaporation and naturally happens over time. This is one of the reasons that wine (under cork) should be stored on it's side to avoid the corks drying out and creating greater evaporation or 'oxidisation' which can eventually spoil an aged wine The Ullage, or bottle fill level, is a great sight indication of how much the wine has oxidised whilst being aged. The less evaporation, the safer the purchase and more likely the wine is to be in excellent drinking condition Age of the wine is dependant, but a wine with an extremely low Ullage level that is not 40+ years old often is an indication of poor cellaring conditions at some stage of its life cycle. Wines with higher ullage levels show that care has been taken throughout it's life and it is almost always going to demand a higher price Given that wine comes in all sorts of different shaped bottles, there is no 1 sized fits all process, but in the note is the common terms that are used in each instance.
Label Label refers to both the front label and if imported the back label All wines have labels at time of production, It is important to know the correct labelling to avoid fraudlent bottle. The Back Labels are particularly important for imported wines, they are an indication of whether the wine has been imported through a registered importer Often an indication of how carefully a wine has been cellared is the state of the label. The back label of imported wines will indiciate as to whether the wine has been imported via refrigerated containment, correct taxation has been applied at the time of importation and also as to whether the wines are real or potentially fraudlently created bottles. Determining the authenticity is important, but lots of buyers want the cache the comes through the wines being in top notch condition. Brilliantly stored bottles can sometimes have a significant devaluation applied due to poor label management Purely done on a sighting basis. Are there any scratches or markings on the labels? Is the adhesion to the bottle compromised? Are they imported by a regsitered importer, or have they attended the Penfolds Grange 'Red Wine Clinic'?
Capsule Capsule refers to the state of the covering that protects the cork, glass stopper or screwcap. Most of museum release wines we will be dealing with are under cork The state of the capsule is often one of the most important indicators as to the condition of the wine. Wines without original capsules intact are often seen as being suspect and could indicate fraudlent wines The capsule, if warped or out of place can often be because the cork in the bottle has expanded and begun to push through. This mainly happens as a direct result of exposure to heat and needs to be carefully taken into consideration prior to selling aged wines If capsules are in perfect condition, this is usually a sublime indicator of the quality of storage. Any warping or major tears to the capsule can be a result of poor storage. Any missing capsule is viewed as a potentially fraudlent wine so needs to be approached very carefully. This is done completely by sight. Measurement of the calibre of capsule is made on a case by case basis. If the cork is shown to have risen 2 cm's out of the bottle the wine is very suspect and highly unlikely it will be purchased or re-sold.
Packaging Some wines when purchased directly from wineries or retailers are delivered in unbroken cases Especially if the wine is still in it's original Wooden Box, it shows the wines have most likely been purchased directly through a registered importer or direct from the winery Other than collectors wanting this to complete collections, it gives an assurance that the wines are not fakes Not greatly in the current market, but on some of the Icon wines some collectors will pay a premium to receive the wine in OWC. Wines like Grange, Hill of Grace, Salon etc.. can often be found in wooden 6 packs, or even single bottle boxes Has the box been opened? Is the wine within unspoiled by dirt/mould etc?

Ullage Terms Explained

Base of Neck

Indicates a very minimal reduction of wine due to evaporation. An excellent level for any wine 10 years or older.

Just Below Base of Neck

Indicates a minimal reduction of wine due to evaporation. A very good level in any wine 15 years or older.

Very high shoulder

Indicates a very slight natural reduction of wine due to evaporation through the cork and capsule. A good level in any wine 15 years or older.

High shoulder

Normal level for any Bordeaux 20 years or older.

Mid-high shoulder

Indicates a natural reduction through easing of the cork and evaporation through cork and capsule. We will inspect these wines or detailed images prior to making any offers


Indicates some weakening of the cork and therefore risk of oxidation. This is not unusual in wines over 50 years old and pricing will take this into account. Bottles of wine from more important, older vintages can be attractive as collectors often understand this

Low-mid shoulder

Indicates high risk of oxidation, Unless extremely old we will avoid these sorts of wines

Label Terms

Perfect Label Condition

This is extremely rare, often very young wines or those where the labels have been covered in cling-film to protect integrity

Minor Label Damage

Labels that have small marks, scuffing or a slight tear. This could include a small price written on the bottle or minor warping from moisture in a winefridge

Damaged Label

Labels that have larger damage, often isolated to one portion of the label such as large tears, scrapes, moisture stain etc.

Badly Damaged Label

Only used to describe extreme problems such as major portions of label damaged or missing, or the label is unreadable, major stains affecting the underlying integrity or a complete loss of adhesion to the bottle

Capsule Terminology

Minor Capsule Damage

Generally small tears or scrapes (often a by-product of being moved in and out of a wine cellar)

Damaged Capsule

These are Capsules which have more serious damage that has occurred from water damage, minor bulging of corks or significant scrapes/tears

Badly Damaged capsule

Only used if serious damage has occurred, missing or cork has popped through at some stage, these wines lose significant value

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