While rummaging through James Halliday’s fabulous website last week I came across a post on the so-called ‘Hatcher Theorem’. Chris Hatcher, chief winemaker at Wolf Blass in Australia, is one of the original advocates of the screwcap closure, in a country that has pioneered and helped change consumer perception of this modern and reliable form of packaging. Thanks to people like him, cork is now regarded by most of the New World and now a lot of the Old World as the inferior closure.
Hatcher devised a diagram showing aged characters on the vertical axis and time in years on the horizontal axis. With this he was able to test the development of identical wines over time, with a batch under cork and a batch under screwcap. The results were interesting. In the first year or so there is no difference in the two wines. By the second or third year there is slightly more development under cork, which some people may want. This might not be ideal for white wines though, as most should be consumed early when they are fresh.
What is really interesting is what happens at around 10-12 years. Providing storage conditions are constant, no two bottles are the same when it comes to cork. Under screwcap, however, the wines are all at the same stage of development. The wines enter a plateau that can extend for decades, with incremental changes over time. As well as this of course, there is no fear of cork taint.
Halliday says himself, “There is no ‘Eureka!’ moment, nor is there any ‘drink yesterday’ alarm bell.”