There's no single answer to that question. Some wines are very long-lived, and may go 30 or 40 years after the "wait until" date, whereas others are over the hill within a few years. It depends on the makeup of the particular wine -- the balance of fruit, tannin, acid, and so forth, as well as a particular wine's track record. Rely on the experts for that information, at least until you develop some sense of such things for yourself -- which takes a long, long time and a lot of experience.

Longevity also depends a great deal on how the wine is stored. If allowed to rest in the dark at a constant 55 degrees or less and about 60% humidity, most wines will age slowly, but if kept at room temperature or in bright light, they die an early death.
marcb, pay very little attention to what you read on this site, other than from the pros, to when to drink a given wine. 90% of the tred wines reviewed by the postsers here are consumned far too young, some decades too young. Very few people here have any concept of what a Rhone in its prime is.
Originally posted by marcb7:
If the experts do not tell you when to drink the wine by how can you find that info out? I certainly dont want a very good bottle of wine to go to waste!!!

Aside from reading about a particular wine -- varietal, vintage, & vintner -- you gotta taste. That's why most serious wine connoisseurs often buy more than one bottle of a particular wine, one to open to assess, and others to store until they're "ready."

But don't obsess too much about this. You're going to make mistakes -- I can't tell you how many bottles I've opened too soon or too late over the past 40 years. How do I know? Too soon often means the wine is still rough and overly tannic, too late and the fruit has faded into oblivion. And sometimes a red wine is just going through what's called a "dumb stage," where for reasons that remain a mystery the flavors are just subdued or out of whack for a couple of years. It's part of what makes wine so interesting -- kinda like women. ;-)

In any case, most reds are best after a few years of age, although some don't peak for 10 years or more, and most are good for at least 6 to 10 years if properly stored, others will last for decades. Whites are usually ready to drink when released, although some are better after a year or two, and although some (especially sweet wines) last a very long time, most are over the hill within a few years.

But the idea that wine gets better and better as it gets older and older is a myth perpetuated by popular media. Indeed, 95% of wine (guessing here) doesn't improve at all after it's bottled.

The Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, Connoisseur's Guide, Wine Enthusiast, and most good retailers and some wineries will usually give you some advice on what to expect of a particular wine.

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