Taste

12 Wine Terms Every Wine Lover Should Know

06/27/2016 01:52pm ET

You’re out to eat and seeking the perfect glass of red to go with your steak. You flag the waiter, who asks: Are you looking for something earthy or fruit-forward? You freeze. Never again, thanks to this handy guide to all those weird wine words.

FULL-BODIED

This word is used to describe the texture of the wine. Think of full-bodied as the difference between whole vs. skim milk. If you’re looking for something lighter, ask for something light- or medium-bodied, depending on your preference.

EARTHY

This word is less about taste and more about aroma. So if you prefer a white that smells like fresh-cut grass or a red with a scent like the woods, earthy is your go-to.

BLEND

All this means is that the wine was made from an assortment of different grapes. For example, most bottles from Bordeaux feature a grape combo. (Think 65 percent Cab Sauv, 35 percent Merlot.)

FRUIT-FORWARD

Not to be confused with “sweet,” this actually refers to wines that are dominated by fruity flavors. For example, that Sauv Blanc with a hint of citrusy lemon or the Montepulciano that tastes like delicious Maraschino cherries.

OAKY

You know how wine gets aged in barrels? Oaky refers to the range of flavors that come from that--like the bottle of Zinfandel that tastes smoky and coffee-like. Or the Pinot Noir that tastes like chocolate.

SAVORY

The term “savory” is used to describe bitter flavors found in more vegetable-leaning fruits (like bell peppers, tomatoes and olives). Common savory wines include Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Cabernet Franc.

SWEET

If you use the word "sweet," it’s pretty much assumed you’re looking for a dessert wine. Think: tawny port or Muscato. Goes great with Tiramisu.

DRY

Basically, it’s like saying you want the opposite of sweet. If you despise dessert wines, this word is your fail-safe at the bar.

MINERALITY

If you have an affinity for crisp, dry rosés, ask for a glass with robust minerality. It’s the polar opposite of buttery and oaky. And it has a synonym in the wine world: earthy.

BUTTERY

Use this if you prefer a white--like Chardonnay--that’s creamy and smooth when you swish it around your mouth.

TANNIN

This word describes compounds found in grapes that make your lips pucker. High tannin wines can actually make it feel like your saliva has evaporated with each sip.

CORKED

This refers to something (bad) called cork taint—which happens when a cork (which is a natural substance) gets contaminated before your wine is bottled. You’ll know if your glass is corked because it will smell like wet dog.

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