I know (and indeed have gifted membership to) many members who would strenuously deny being elites or elitist. They like wine and correctly identify that by and large the best value for money purchases come from TWS.
I also happen to know several people who previously avoided wine clubs (and even TWS!) because of a preponderance of ‘wine wankers’ to be found at wine bars, tastings and clubs. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to dispose of those myths but you only need a few idiots to confirm bias.
As for qualifications like WSET I am often really surprised by the number of people doing them. The early levels I would regard as very simplistic and really only worthwhile if you are making wine your career. WSET level 1 sample info can be found online and amounts to little more than pop trivia. If you’re trying to get a job selling wine then it helps to be certified to know that Rioja comes from Spain, but if you enjoy wine quizzes there are more amusing and testing questions on Decanter.com!
Most wine sold in this country is in the affordable category. ‘Finewine’ may be based on a form of elitism, but there are a load of folks making an awful lot of money selling cheap wine in enormous volume to a lot of people.
I’m with @Prufrock on this. It strikes me to be a gross generalisation of poorer or ‘sub-elite’ and mixes social drivers with ‘intent’. It is probably fair to say that because good wine is often expensive fewer poorer people have opportunity to get into good wine. Saying that the reason is because they just want to get as drunk as possible for as low a cost as possible is in my opinion incorrect and extremely uncharitable.
Ha! That’ll launch some discussion I’m sure! FWIW I like to know the story about wine including all those things, but my wife loves good wine, has a super sharp palette and is really into tastings etc. Start droning on about how houses were handed down or the presence of rocks trapping warmth in the soil and she’ll glaze over in seconds.
I guess there is a kind of universal balancing act when gripped by passion for any subject or hobby; there is a thirst for exploration and knowledge, joy of sharing and communicating with like-minded individuals, and immutable peril of becoming a tedious blowhard. If one becomes a tedious-blowhard it then it is a nice little shield to just say that you’re part of an elite instead of reflecting on ones behaviour.