What does "OWC" mean in wine sales and auctions?


OWC stands for "Original Wooden Case". Many wines that are of high quality and designated for bottle aging are sent out from the winery in wooden case boxes, which are usually nailed shut. When these wines are put up for sale, many collectors consider an unopened wooden case to be more valuable, since it is evident that the wine has not been tampered with or manipulated since it left the winery, and also because the cases are suitable for and future display and storage of the bottles.

True or false: Red wine grapes should be grown on red soil, and white wine grapes should be grown on white or gray soil.

True, at least according to wine folklore. However, careful examination has revealed that the effect of soil color is much more, well, muddy. There are numerous successful exceptions to this rule, where white grapes grown on red soil and red grapes on white. Furthermore, no one is quite sure how the color of the soil actually affects the grapevine. In some colder climates, red soil may help keep the plants warm at night, because the dark soil absorbs light, and radiates the energy as heat, making the air slightly warmer. This or of effect is certainly used in the Pfalz region of Germany, where black basalt rock is spread on the vineyards to increase the temperature. Red soil can also be an indicator of good drainage, while white soil can be a sign of poor drainage, unless there is a high proportion of limestone. All of these effects are subtle, and their benefits depend largely on the variety of grapevine, and the region where they are being grown. Much like the old "rule" of pairing red wine with red food, and white wine with white food, this soil rule is an attempt to summarize a subject that is full of exceptions and complexities far beyond color.

What is "ullage"?

Ullage is the English form of the French word ouillage, and has a number of meanings in wine, the most common one being the space in a wine bottle between the bottom of the cork and the top of the wine. In whine that has been bottled aged for many years, this can be significant, since a larger ullage indicates more air and oxygen in the bottle, which could cause the wine to go bad. In wine that has been bottled relatively recently, however, this is generally not an important issue, since the quantity of air is too small to have a short-term effect. ullage can also refer to the space in a wine barrel not occupied by wine, which is carefully minimized by winemakers for the very same reason that bottle ullage is - to prevent oxygen from spoiling the wine.

Originally published in our Gold Wine Club's The Wine Press, Blossom Hill Winery - Inheritance Wines edition featured in 2005.