Although Pinot Grigio is Italian, it's an ideal choice for that most American of celebrations, the Thanksgiving dinner. Americans have already embraced Pinot Grigio, particularly those people who have had their fill of the ubiquitous Chardonnay. Pinot Grigio offers much of Chardonnay's apple-like fruitiness but adds a light and lively snap of Italian brio. That is exactly what's needed to reinvigorate the palate between bites of candied yams, chestnut dressing and, of course, the bird itself.
Pinot Grigio also offers value in every price range. Indeed, several under-$10 Pinot Grigios were shockingly good, offering up jolts of mouth-filling fruit at a crowd-pleasing price.
The following wines are listed in order of personal preference, taking into account quality and value. Culled from a tasting of almost 50 Pinot Grigios, even the wines toward the bottom get an unequivocal thumbs-up. Prices are approximate. For information on which stores carry the wine, call the number listed in parentheses.
Marco Felluga 1998 Pinot Grigio "Collio" ($19): Made by a cousin of the more famous Livio Felluga on a small estate in Friuli, this has everything I look for in a Thanksgiving Pinot Grigio. Splendidly ripe, sweet, fresh apple and citrus aromas lead into a bright, bold, full-bodied palate marked by balanced acidity and hints of asparagus and minerals. Finishes with fine grip and length. Super choice. (Class Wines, 1-800-585-WINE)
Castel San Valentino 1998 Pinot Grigio "Alto Adige" ($10; Best Buy): What an eye-opener. This wine combines Pinot Grigio's assertive, spicy varietal character with wondrous freshness. Another superb, innovative wine from expatriate American importer Marc de Grazia, who must have been homesick for Thanksgiving when he selected this delight for his portfolio. (Bacchus Imports, 1-800-525-9699)
Vittorio Pulatti 1997 Pinot Grigio "Collio" ($17): I swear I could taste a bit of pumpkin pie in this lovely wine. That's the beauty of Pinot Gris (the name for Pinot Grigio outside of Italy)--it's really a white grape that wants to be red (and in fact the skin is very dark), so you get borderline flavors like pumpkin and apricot that are yellow fruit going on red. This wine is especially flavorful and subtle. (Vin Divino/Wine Source 202-832-6576
Santa Margherita 1998 Pinot Grigio "Alto Adige" ($19): This wine's ethereal delicacy would seem superficially to make it a less-than-ideal Thanksgiving wine. But its head-filling finish, among the longest of any white wine I have tasted, keeps refreshing the palate long after seemingly bigger wines have quit. And if your guest list includes the boss or a significant other you are trying to impress, remember that Santa Margherita is a well-known splurge wine. (Paterno Imports, 847-604-8900/Forman)
Mezzacorona 1998 Pinot Grigio "Trentino" ($8; Best Buy): This vibrant wine is a genuine bargain. Made in a modern, crisp style, it is chock-full of soft, citrus and apple fruit and has a pleasingly round finish. Because it is full bodied and easy-drinking, this is sure to please your guests, including those who are not hard-core wine aficionados. Tastes a bit like a good Chardonnay. Buy some extra for the rest of the holidays. (Washington Wholesale, 202-832-5600)
Terlano 1998 Pinot Grigio "Alto Adige" ($13): Great zesty aromas of mineral and lemon. On the palate, this is the raciest wine in the tasting, better than Perrier at zapping the palate awake, but, needless to say, with a lot more flavor than France's famous water. (Bacchus Imports, 1-800-525-9699 )
Villa del Borgo 1998 Pinot Grigio "Friuli" ($8-$9): Solid Pinot Grigio flavors of citrus, melon and nuts. Clean, refreshing and quite enjoyable. (Vin Divino/Wine Source, 202-832-6576)
Plozner 1998 Pinot Grigio "Friuli" ($12): This wine is really more for fans of the less effusively fruity, traditional style of Pinot Grigio, emphasizing pleasant nuances of dried fruit and hay, along with good body and texture. For the drumstick lovers in the crowd, as this matches well with gamier flavors. (Empson USA, 703-684-0900/Bacchus)
Cavit 1998 Pinot Grigio "Venezie" ($8 for 750 ml.; $12 for 1.5 liter; Best Buy): Don't let the low price fool you. This is a very nice glass of wine, and a steal if you take advantage of the magnum discount. Perfect for a big Thanksgiving gathering, but also one to keep in mind for upcoming holiday office parties and open houses. (Palm Bay Imports, 1-800-872-5622/ Forman
Bollini 1998 Pinot Grigio "Trentino" ($9; Best Buy): Widely available and quite well made, this broadly fruity Pinot Grigio offers terrific value. (Kobrand, 212-490-9300/Forman)
Valfieri 1998 Pinot Grigio "Alto Adige" ($13): When a top Piedmontese producer goes to the Alto Adige, it buys grapes from the best sources. This wine has delectable apple notes and Piedmontese-like crispness. (Parliament Imports, 609-348-1100/Forman)
Livon 1998 Pinot Grigio "Collio" ($15): Quite well made, juicy and fresh. (DOPS, 301-839-8650)
Questions or comments for wine columnist Ben Giliberti may be addressed to email@example.com