For someone who isn't steeped in wine knowledge, it's easy to listen to wine buffs talk about the vintage of various wines -- that is, the year in which they were bottled -- and assume that the older a wine is, the better. But that's not how it works. The most important thing about vintage is the particular year itself -- what the weather conditions were back then, and what impact they might have had upon the grape harvest and the quality of the wine produced from it.
As for age, that's more often a negative than a positive, according to wine writer Giles Kime. "The vast majority of wines -- particularly whites -- become increasingly dull and flaccid with age," he writes in his book "Secrets of Wine: Insider Secrets into the Real World of Wine." Only a few high-quality reds and some Champagnes improve over time -- "and even that is very much a matter of personal taste."
Apart from those exceptions, wines generally should be consumed within a year or two of bottling.