Last week I was in Wisconsin, home to some of America's best beer brewers. It's the kind of place where a beer list is more common than a wine list. Faced with a long menu of unfamiliar brews, I nervously mumbled, 'Uh, something not too sweet or fruity, medium flavour, please'. Fumbling to articulate my undefined beer tastes to the baffled server, I fell back on outmoded wine language. A common request heard in restaurants is, 'A dry wine, please'. In wine-speak, dry is the opposite of sweet. Some 30 years ago, when cheap wines were sweetened to attract new wine drinkers, it became the ultimate sophistication to request dry wine. These days, the few sweet wines that appear on a wine list are almost always top-quality dessert wines, so there is little need to mention the word dry when ordering. Using 'dry' is a giveaway that you have more interesting things to do on your weekends than study wine guides. 'Fruity' is another term to be handled with care. It came into vogue when low-quality wines were tarted up with aromatic grapes to seduce our noses. Much like cheap perfume, these fruity wines overtaxed the senses, thus it became fashionable to exclaim, 'Nothing fruity, please'. With the exception of gewurztraminer, wines offering heady fruit aromatics are rarely found on wine lists, but fears of a frontal fruit assault still exist among many diners. And while gewurztraminer is indisputably fruity, the grape is a recommended match for richly spiced fare such as Sichuan cuisine. In an ideal world, restaurants would fashion their wine lists in stylist groupings instead of by geographical origin. Few do. To help a server recommend wines that please your palate, try reciting your ABCs. A is for acidity. Acidity levels determine the sourness or refreshing character of the wine and can be specified as high, medium or low. More prosaic types express themselves with words such as crisp, refreshing or gentle. B is for body. It helps to visualise cream, skimmed milk or water to understand the concept of wine body types, then let the server know whether you would like a heavy-, medium- or light-bodied wine. C is for colour. Easiest of all, simply specify whether you would like a red, white or pink wine with your meal. Thus: 'I would like to start with a crisp, light-bodied white wine, followed by a gentle, medium-bodied red and for my main course, please could you suggest a refreshing, full-bodied red? Thank you.' It's as easy as ABC.