by Edward Robert Brooks, Jr.
The concept of connoisseurship is an intriguing and complex topic. Though Webster's defines a connoisseur as: “Expert; esp: One who understands the details, technique or principles of an art and is competent to act as a critical judge", and indicates that this word is derived from the French connoistre=to know; this quest for knowledge is often misunderstood and perceived to be elitist and pretentious.
However, rather than an excuse for snobbery, I suggest eschewing that conception, and instead with regard to the study of wine, that it can (and should) inspire a desire for true appreciation through embarking on an intellectual process to fully understand the myriad subtleties of this fascinating subject, with the goal of attaining an educated competence and sophistication. Perhaps to become an acknowledged cognoscenti, rather than a connoisseur, given the current perception of negative connotation for the latter.
This endeavor suggests a multi-faceted process of evaluation which requires an enlightened, as well as critical and disciplined approach with thorough and comprehensive research of all aspects through extensive reading and well-informed discussion that includes broad-based opinions, attempting to comprehend and evaluate the often subjective nature of taste, exploring the confluence of the art and science of viniculture and oenology, delving into the extensive history, learning wine specific terminology, and of course direct sensory evaluation to attain expertise.
In addition to these criteria, I propose also adding extensive analysis of empirical pricing data and sales results (such as the compendium offered by Wineauctionprices) to compare and contrast how trends are impacted by perceptions of actual quality, aging potential, and rarity; versus marketing promotion via advertising and reviews, as well as currency fluctuations and other influences.
With greater knowledge and experience invariably comes proficiency and the ability to discern nuances, subtleties and complexities; and recognition about why some wines over the course of time attain an elite status. Good taste, whether it be conceptually based on studious insights, or in the case of wine also literally from imbibing a well-crafted example, always benefits from thoughtful research and contemplation.