If a review says "drink by" a few years ago, is the wine bad now?

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Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

I recently came across an older bottle of wine, but Wine Spectator’s review suggested “drink by 2019,” so I didn’t buy it. Was I wrong?

—Sheldon, Toccoa, Ga.

Dear Sheldon,

I wouldn’t say “wrong,” but drinking windows, as they’re known, are just our recommendations for when we think a wine will be at its absolute best. It is by no means an expiration date. And on the other side of that coin, if a wine review indicates that a wine will be “best after” a certain date, that doesn’t mean it won’t knock your socks off before then.

Consider as well that we tend to be conservative with our drink recommendations. Not every wine lover has experience with older wines, and not every wine lover has optimal cellar conditions that will allow wines to reach the potential height of their maturity.

Most important, though, is whether or not you prefer the taste of older wines. Most wines today are made to drink their best when they’re released. When they reach about the 10-year mark (and potentially much sooner than that for some whites and rosés), wines start to lose their fresh fruit flavors and bright color, and more nutty, cooked fruit or earthy notes start to emerge. If you're really into the taste of older wines, though, maybe you should reconsider that purchase!

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny aging-wine

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