Street presents: how to talk about wine without seeming like a dumbass. You're welcome.
Red vs. White
Contrary to popular belief, the difference between red and white wine has to do with whether or not the grape skins are left to ferment with the wine, not the color of the grapes—even red grapes have white juice.
Leaving the skins in with the fermenting juice allows the wine to steep and absorb tannins, a substance found in organic compounds that yields a bitter taste and puckery feeling (think that dry bitter taste in your mouth after you drink black tea). The darker the wine, the higher the tannins and the bolder the taste. On the flip side, white wines are aged without the skins and are more acidic, instead having a tart taste.
For those who want the best of both worlds: Rosé
Every betch’s favorite wine only gets to age a short amount of time with red grape skins, resulting in the blush-y pink color. With relatively low tannins and a crisp flavor, a rosé is the perfect blend of red and white.
Dry vs. Sweet
Sweetness has to do with residual sugar, the amount of sugar that remains in the wine after the fermentation process is stopped. Dry wines have very little to no residual sugars, and actually make up most wines on the market. Sweet wines are—technically speaking—desert wines (but the only one stopping you from ordering prosecco at dinner is yourself).
Body has to do with the wine’s weight on your palate, which is basically a fancy way of saying how the wine feels in your mouth. Full bodied wines are richer and feel like they coat your tongue, while light bodied wines are lighter and have more of a water–like sensation.
Fruity vs. Earthy
This distinction is a little more self–explanatory. Wine flavor depends on (a) what aromas a wine gets from aging in a certain type of barrel or container and (b) how ripe the grapes are. Fruity wines are made with very ripe grapes, aged in metal containers, and fermented at cooler temperatures. Earthy wines on the other hand are aged in warmer temperatures in wooden barrels, which are treated with different essences.
Those are the basics. Now, go forth and drink with sophistication (also legally and responsibly).