Dark, cold outer space is the new wine and spirits frontier.
The extraterrestrial terroir taste in Meteorito, a cabernet made at Chile's Tremonte winery, comes from a 4.5-billion-year-old meteorite from the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars.
Winery general manager Ian Hutcheon, owner of the nearby Centro Astronomico Tagua Tagua and anxious to join his two passions, submerged the 3-inch space rock in some of his 2010 cabernet for a year.
In a blind tasting with colleagues, he found the bottled wine had a livelier and fresher taste, "with a curious twist." It's coming soon to New York, where it will cost about $20 a bottle.
The Ardbeg whisky distillery on the Scottish island of Islay, on the other hand, announced that it had sent plastic vials of unaged single malt molecules where no dram had gone before: the International Space Station, 250 miles above earth.
The mission: a two-year study with space research company NanoRacks to see how the famously peaty spirit ages in near zero-G. The cost to find out how complex flavor molecules called "terpenes" interact with charred oak in this atmosphere is half a million dollars.
Will all this result in new aromas and flavors for a space-inspired whisky? We'll beam down the results next year.
Space's vast potential for wine and spirits was only one highlight among 2012's weird and wacky stories.
An over-the-top wine rack in the style of a giant Transformer robot toy is posted on Craigslist for $7,000. Six feet tall, weighing 1,000 pounds and made from old automobile and motorcycle transmission parts in China, it's billed by its Arizona owner as "ridiculously cool."
Most of the 32 welded bottle slots store wines vertically, so it isn't ideal for super pricey wines, but perfect for the fan-boy geek who has everything. First posted in June, it's still available.
The French designers of a cute vine-pruning, data-collecting robot named Wall-Ye V.I.N., which debuted in September, are now taking orders. Red with white trim, Wall-Ye is 20 inches tall and has two arms, four wheels and six cameras.
It's solar-powered, doesn't get tired, drunk, or go on strike, and costs 25,000 euros ($33,100). Chateau Mouton Rothschild offered its prestigious vineyards for test runs, according to Agence France-Presse.
The newest wine pairing is with perfume, long a no-no combo for serious tasters. After being called out by a winemaker at Napa Valley's Rombauer Vineyards for wearing a vanilla scent, fragrance marketer Kelly Jones set herself the task of making five perfumes, introduced this year, that she says enhance wine.
"I didn't want scents to smell like wine spilled on my shirt," Jones said in a telephone interview. "For 'Notes of Merlot' I picked up on the varietal's whiffs of candied violet."
Others may prefer to try out new mini-aerosol flavor-spray for the mouth, Wahh Quantum Sensations, which provides a fleeting feeling of drunkenness "without the harmful effects of alcohol." Designer Philippe Starck and Harvard University scientist David Edwards say the purpose is to "accent life with a magic wand."
The past year was also a time of strange wines we definitely don't need, like Almond Roca cream dessert wine from Washington State, which takes chocolate-infused wines to a new, treacly level.
British merchant Sheldon's Wine Cellars offers the "uncomplicated, easy-drinking" 2011 Royal Blush Rose, with a label based on nude Prince Harry photos taken at an August bare- it-all-party in Las Vegas.
And there are the wines of Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Labels of her Sonoma-made Vin d'Amour chardonnay, cabernet, and white zinfandel feature a portrait of the famous 84-year-old sex therapist.
Dr. Ruth says the obvious -- that wine helps couples relax and get aroused, but too much impairs performance. Which is why she wanted her wines to have a weak 6 percent alcohol. Fifty shades of chutzpah!
Eroticism is also key to the just-launched G-Spirits line of vodka, single malt whisky, and rum, created by former bartenders Maximilian and Julian Goldbach in Germany. Before bottling, every single drop of booze is poured over the naked breasts of beautiful women, like Hungarian playmate of the year Alexa Varga, to give the taste "a unique erotic character."
According to Max Goldbach, their customers, mostly men (surprise!), range from 18 to 72. Lest you are worried about how sanitary this is, the website claims that medical personnel supervise. The labels are X-rated, which is why you'll have to go to the website to view.
Maybe G-Spirits call for the nuttiest wine accessory of the year, Vinderpants. Advertised as "underpants for your wine," the cotton and spandex bottle coverings appeal, I think, only to those with a very special sense of humor. Still, there were just two left in stock on Amazon.com when I checked right after Christmas.