You're an adult now, and being an adult means that sometimes you get put in adult situations like, I don't know, finding employment or figuring out what a FICO score is. And sometimes, being an adult means you want to go to a restaurant and order a glass of wine.
So if you're someone who might say, "I'll have a glass of your reddest wine, please," then this guide is for you. Next time your waiter comes around, ask for a wine recommendation using these 5 questions:
1. Ask about the BODY: This is the easiest, layup question to ask. The body is easy for most people to understand because it roughly translates to how much alcohol is in the wine. "Full Body" (don't say heavy body) wines tend to be high in alcohol, usually 14% or more, "Medium Body" is 12-14% and "Light Body" is less than 12%. Reds tend to be heavier, whites tend to be lighter. So depending on what kind of night you're having or what kind of food you're eating (heavy wines go with heavy foods), this is an easy one to ask about.
2. Ask for something FRUIT FORWARD: The term "fruit forward" is a fancy term for wine that tastes fruity. "But isn't all wine made with grapes..." Yes, that's true, but certain wines are much fruitier than others, with flavors like strawberry jam at the forefront. Many young people prefer fruit-forward wine (not all!), as opposed to a dark, savory, earthy wine (that probably costs more), so asking for something fruit-forward is easy. If a wine is very fruit-forward, you can even proclaim, "Wow, this is a fruit-bomb!"—seriously, that's a legitimate fancy-person thing people say.
3. Ask if the wine is DRY: The word "dry" gets thrown around a lot and gets used improperly. A lot of people mistake tannins for dryness (don't get confused! See below for tannins). But dryness it's easy to use correctly: how "dry" a wine is means how sweet (or not-sweet) the wine is! A completely dry wine means all the residual sugar has been fermented away and there's no sweetness left. Most standard wines are in fact classified as "dry," as opposed to a "sweet" dessert wine. But you have an opportunity to get fancy here by either asking for something "very dry" if you really hate sweetness or something "off dry" if you want a little sweetness introduced.
4. Ask about the TANNINS: The word "tannins" also gets thrown around a lot and gets made fun of because people misuse it so often. But it's another easy one to identify! The tannins in the wine are what make your mouth feel dry after taking a sip (note, don't confuse this with dryness, see above!). Tannins give a bitterness to the wine and cause your tongue to kind of stick to the roof of your mouth. If you've ever had black tea that you've steeped too long, or a dark chocolate, the bitterness you taste in those are also tannins! If you like dark chocolate or other bitter flavors, you'll probably like a wine that is high in tannins. Finally: to sound fancy, DO NOT ask for a wine that is "tanniny," ask for a wine that is "tannic."
5. Ask if the wine is OAKY: So you probably know that wine usually gets stored in barrels, and those barrels (which are made of oak) have a big impact on the flavor of the wine. There are all kinds of nuances between American oak and French oak and it goes on. But all you need to know is that wine stored for a long time in oak barrels tends to have rich, toasted, vanilla, caramel flavors. Certain wines, especially white wines, are labeled as "unoaked" because they get aged in steel barrels. This allows the wines to maintain a much fruitier character, and may be described as "sharp" or acidic. Chardonnay that's been "oaked" is often described as having a "buttery" flavor while "unoaked" Chardonnay is bright and clean. So if you like "oaky" flavors, it's okay to ask for an oaky wine. If you like clean, sharp, fruit flavors, look for an "unoaked" wine.
Okay, now you're a pro! So practice something like, "Can you recommend me a wine that is medium-bodied, mildly tannic, and fruit-forward?" or "I'm looking for something that's nice and oaky, dry and full-bodied to go with my fancy steak."