However, when the invitation is for "An Evening With Taittinger", it's quite a different story.
Milton Sandford Wines had invited me to join them in celebrating Searcys' Champagne Week (1-7 October) for an evening at Vintners' Hall. Aside from the fantastic opportunity to taste a range of wines from one Champagne house side-by-side, this would be my first visit to the iconic Vintners' Hall, the spiritual home of the UK Wine Trade with over 650 years of history.
I'd have walked over hot coals for the chance. As it was, I only had to endure torrential rain and the odd signal failure. Result!
It's here that most Champagne experiences would end. Confined to life as a trusty aperitif, many of us don't get beyond a second glass. I, among other guests, had failed to see the full potential for serving Champagnes with a whole range of foods. This evening would certainly change our perceptions.
He described Taittinger as a "feminine" style of Champagne compared with Bollinger's perhaps more "masculine" style. This, he advised, came from the dominance of Chardonnay in the cuvées, giving a house style that favoured elegance, delicacy and finesse. I found this an interesting observation given how many female Purple Teeth readers have told me that Taittinger is their favourite Champagne.
Almost affordable luxury, serve it with Jamón Ibérico or the finest smoked salmon you can afford.
In the wine trade, we are always schooled that the wine should be sweeter than the dessert. In this case, the salted almonds clearly challenged that rule. Our glass of Taittinger Nocturne Sec NV (a blend of 40% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 25% Meunier) was off-dry in style with around 13 grams of residual sugar and worked well with the sweet and salt nature of the dish. A very easy-to-drink, mellow style of Champagne, this was the favourite of a couple of my table-mates who enjoyed its rounded balance. Patrick described this as a perfect Champagne to serve with Afternoon Tea. One day, I hope to test that.
A decent drop with bursting with red fruits, it was a good accompaniment to the raspberry brioche dessert, which I likened to a posh and less sweet jam doughnut. But by this stage, we had all clearly selected our favourite, and while pleasant, this didn't steal the show for anyone at our table.
To be fair, we had some die-hard fans of Billecart-Salmon Rosé present, so perhaps they were never going to be convinced. Luckily, the story didn't end on this note.
Suddenly, the delights of the Folies de la Marquetterie paled for many. With a highly pronounced nose which followed through on the palate, there was pear, apple, citrus and toasted brioche in abundance. We were served with a small bag of Marc de Champagne chocolate truffles, but this demanded to be given our full attention. (I saved my chocolates for the rather tedious train journey home).
An incredibly delicate yet creamy mousse, gave an enveloping and velvety mouthfeel along with a long and mineral driven finish. This is a glass to savour, that led to much debate about when one would open such a bottle. I felt a wine like this demanded to be the centre of attention in a romantic evening for two, while others felt they wouldn't want to share it at all. Certainly, you'd be the host of the year if you served this at a party or celebration. Just don't serve it to Prosecco fans.
As we re-sampled the bottles that remained on our table and discussed what made each wine special for us, it became a less formal and highly convivial evening. It was a real privilege to gain an insight into the diversity of styles offered by one house. For sure, it's not "just Champagne". Like all wines, there are a range of styles available. I hope you have as much fun discovering your favourites as I did.
As a parting remark, I'll leave you with the wise advice of our host, Patrick McGrath MW. Champagne is meant to be enjoyed. It's had all it's ageing in the beautiful, centuries-old, chalk cellars underneath Reims and environs.
Buy it, chill it and drink it.
Don't keep it. Don't wait for a special occasion. Drinking Champagne is the occasion.
I'd love to hear about your favourite Champagnes and sparkling wines. Feel free to leave your comments here, or on my Facebook page. Email me here if you'd like to host your own Purple Teeth wine or Champagne tasting in your own venue.