(A recent and inadvertent visit to The Abyss certainly helped clarify this one.)
I like vodka, and by like I mean love, and by love I mean really love. I've tried other elixirs, tequila, gin, scotch ... but it's vodka for me: clean, pure, crisp - like a cool, crunchy cotton sheet (which I also like).
I like beer, and I like wine, but not in the way I like vodka. It all has its place and its pleasure, and it's the distinction and variety of pleasures that is the enjoyment of pleasures. Meaning I don't want to sink a bismarck with my beer; I don't want my beer to be my vodka, nor do I want my wine to be my vodka. That's why there's vodka, and it's called vodka (which should be vodka and not fruit punch). *
The alcohol levels in wine, of course, have been inching up for awhile. Here is a 2005 article about it from The New York Times, entitled "The Hard Stuff Now Includes Wine." As Eric Asimov points out, going from the long-standing 12% alcohol to 15% alcohol is a 25% increase in the alcohol in that bottle.
I was actually pleased to see this post recently on the Terroirist blog, a story about how Coppola wants to use the (slightly marred) Inglenook label to reestablish an elegant, lower alcohol wine.
It would be nice if this were evidence the pendulum was swinging, to enjoying wine for wine's sake, or for that matter enjoying life's myriad of pleasures for their innate sakes.
*...though there are variations/exceptions to all the above that are curious and interesting, and will be covered another time.