Three incredibly cool wine concepts to try in 2012

After reading last week's column, you may have correctly deduced that we were less than thrilled by a set of half-witted wine branding ideas designed to insult the intelligence of women everywhere. Lest you think we were unduly harsh in our assessment, trust that we understand that it's gotta be tough to dream up sexy and interesting new ways to market a product that's been in existence since well before antiquity. Layer onto that the fact that wine drinkers are more educated and discriminating than ever before, and it becomes abundantly clear how miraculous it is that any wine producer would be brave enough to attempt to push anything beyond the predictably safe and familiar. The good news is that these brave souls do exist, and there are still plenty of clever ideas out there that we're fired up about. Read on for three very cool wine concepts to try now. Wine Labels, The Remix: Industry stats show that anywhere from 40 to 70 percent of wine purchases are made based purely on a buyer's response to the label. Sonoma-based winemakers Truett-Hurst wisely decided to parlay that trend into an opportunity to take label design in an entirely new direction, and partnered with the design agency Stranger & Stranger and -- get this -- Safeway, to release a set of wines gorgeously wrapped in recyclable paper adorned with a range of messages from food pairings to recipes. The slick venture is called Evocative Wrapped Bottles and includes eight thought-provoking labels to choose from, each as different from the other as you can imagine. The Candells Sparkling Brut Rosé NV bottling features an elegantly adorned black and white label that practically screams dinner party hostess gift; we're already plotting to order a few bottles of Curious Beasts Blood Red Wine 2011 (which are wrapped in red paper festooned with jack-o'lantern-headed skeletons) to pour during the upcoming slew of Halloween-themed drink fests. What's In the Flasq? Wandering recently through our favorite small-but-mighty wine shop, we stopped short at a funny-looking (and so we thought, random) display of what appeared to be aluminum water bottles. Upon closer inspection we discovered there was wine in them there bottles -- two full glasses of wine, to be exact. As eco-conscious as it gets, the edgy-ish packaging features a wide-mouthed opening (all the better to guzzle you, my dear) and a special coating to prevent any kind of tinny flavor from seeping into the wine. As for the wine itself, well, it's pretty straightforward, but utterly drinkable. An all-American naming convention (echoing their commitment to using only products made in the USA) tees up Flasq Red (a mostly Paso Robles-based merlot blend); Flasq White (chardonnay from Monterey County) and the somewhat mysteriously-monikered Flasq Blue - which the website bills as a "slightly sweet cuvee blanc" (translation: a headily fragranced, off-dry blend of sauvignon blanc, viognier and muscat). As long as we can bring wine like this, suddenly that winter camping trip sounds a whole lot more appealing. Straight From The Tank: We are so over people who are just too cool to drink boxed wines. In fact, we've been trying to convince you to drink outside the box for a while now, being as we are huge fans of this particular brand of party-ready packaging. Our contention was -- and remains -- that so long as the bevvie inside is bangin', we could care less if it was packaged inside a plastic porcupine. Our latest score in this category? From The Tank Vin Rouge, a tasty little Côtes du Rhône (Jenny & Francois, the natural winemaking-focused duo behind the brand, makes a white, too). When you consider all the benefits of drinking boxed wine (extended drinking window, portability, environmental brownie points) the crazy-good value ($40 bucks for the equivalent of four 750 ML bottles of vino) and the fact that the wine is perfectly charming, how can you really beat it?