The Wine Sub-Culture
by: Keith E. Coggin

Are wine connoisseurs a sub-culture?  To answer this question we must first answer several other questions.  What is a sub-culture?  What is a connoisseur?  My initial reaction was that yes, wine connoisseurs are a sub-culture, but let us take a look at the details.

First, what is a sub-culture?  This is a question lacking a single solid answer. At the most basic level we have a dictionary definition, Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines a sub-culture as: “An ethnic, regional, economic, or social group exhibiting characteristic patterns of behavior sufficient to distinguish it from others within an embracing culture or society”.  I find this definition to be lacking in scope, as many common sub-cultures extend beyond any single embracing culture or society.  Given this, I have chosen to broaden the definition of a sub-culture as: an ethnic, regional, economic, or social group exhibiting characteristic patterns of behavior sufficient to distinguish it from others within one or more embracing cultures or societies.

Having established what a sub-culture is, we can now turn our attention to the next question at hand: What is a connoisseur?  The dictionary defines a connoisseur as: “expert; especially: one who understands the details, technique, or principles of an art and is competent to act as a critical judge.”  This tells us that to be a connoisseur and not just another wine drinker one must have special skills or knowledge gained from training or experience. A wine connoisseur is a qualified judge of wines.

Now we return to the topic of the hour: Are wine connoisseurs a sub-culture?  To answer this we first ask ourselves what are the “characteristic patterns of behavior” of wine connoisseurs?  Wine connoisseurs expend time, effort, and money to drink, study, and research wine to better differentiate and enjoy the subtleties of the wine flavors.  Next we need to decide is this “behavior sufficient to distinguish it from others”, are the actions of wine connoisseurs unique to the as opposed to other wine drinkers.  I think that the amount of time wine connoisseurs spend on wine related activities is unique and distinctive.

After careful consideration of the terms involved in this discussion, the answer can only be, “yes”, wine connoisseurs are a subculture.  They are uniquely dedicated to the study and consumption of wine.  No other group of wine consumers exhibits the passion for or knowledge of wine that wine connoisseurs have.  These factors combine with the fact that wine connoisseurs can be found in many embracing cultures and societies throughout the world to make them a clear and present sub-culture.