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As a first-time winemaker, you want to set yourself up for success from the start. The grapes in the following table give you a great shot at overcoming beginner’s jitters over style, taste, and technique:

Reds Whites:
Zinfandel: The All-American red (originally from Croatia), full of fruit and spice, good in every style from rosé to blockbuster. Sauvignon Blanc: The best odds of making white wine with real character the first time out.
Merlot: Always drinkable; most of the charms of Cabernet Sauvignon, with a bigger margin of error on your first try. Chardonnay: Available everywhere, popular as they come, and perfectly delightful in a minimal, home style.
Syrah: Full of fruit, easy to work with, a great blender. Riesling: The queen of aromatic whites, versatile with food, delicious dry, off-dry, and sticky-sweet.

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Tim Patterson writes about wine and makes some of his own in Berkeley, California. He contributes the monthly "Inquiring Winemaker" column for the industry trade magazine Wines & Vines, digging into winemaking theories and techniques, and he covered home winemaking for several years in the pages of WineMaker. He has won dozens of Gold medals, Double Golds, and Best of Shows from amateur winemaking competitions in California.

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