It’s July, and America is still sweltering amid the extreme high pressure front of the Great Economic Downturn. Wine is not immune. In fact, the econo-doldrums have prompted some surprising, even outright bizarre, measures on the part of wine makers and marketers. To wit, consider the following wine ventures that the Wine Skewer—exclusively, mais oui—has learned are in the works….

[tignanello tail]. This mash-up of high-end and low-end wine was bound to happen. On one hand we have the 16 {or is it 60… who’s counting?} generations of winemaking Antinoris, whose Super Tuscan pre-eminence has been reduced to worthless press clippings as their $100 blends draw more dust than glances on U.S. retail shelves. On the other hand, we have Yellow Tail, the Jammy Juggernaut of Oz, King of Critters, the wine that every 30-years-and-under American can remember, pronounce and afford. Look for bottlings of this new joint venture to appear for $19.99 {hey, it’s the new $99.99}.

Vineyard Cemeteries. Do you believe in heavenly terroir? Or perhaps an afterlife longer than the finish on Montrachet? If so, consider having your remains laid to rest on a steep, rugged Napa Valley hillside. Plots are now available at several Formerly-Known-As-Cult Wineries that are now desperately seeking revenue since their mailing-list orders have tanked. The Wine Skewer can’t name the properties, as to do so would result in debilitating embarassment on the part of the once-culty brands, not to mention critic backlash if word gets out that mere mortals are going subterranean in hallowed soils.

Swiss Chard-onnay. It’s a vegetable. It’s a wine. It’s both! Coming soon to a farmer’s market near you, this hybrid—forged by irrigating Swiss Chard plots with bulk Chardonnay—offers generous aromas, full body {for a vegetable} and just a hint of oak on the finish. Great steamed, sauteed or raw, straight from a Riedel glass.

Pro-Jell-O. Prosecco’s relatively modest price tags has kept exports afloat, but that’s no reason for Veneto vintners not to seek new market tie-ins. Back in the late 1990s, Jell-O brand gelatin came out with a “Champagne Jell-O” that you simply mixed with seltzer. Joining forces with Prosecco, Jell-O has gone bubbly again, though this time you mix it with the light Italian bubbly. Soon to be released in one flavor: peach. Think of it as a firm, wiggly Bellini.

Riesling Body Wash. Soap is not enough for the average American teenage male. Today’s social climate calls for pungent “body wash,” which young men are wont to apply in abundance from head-to-toe. Now they can smell less like cologne, and more like a dashing connoisseur from Cologne, Germany, thanks to this new formula. It’s a little floral, a little peachy, a little sweet…with a clean finish that screams “chick magnet.”

The Running of the Bulls…in Rioja! The famous macho-macho-man festival of Pamplona turned uglier than usual this summer with several notable gorings. The Wine Skewer has learned that the bodegas of La Rioja, producers of arguably Spain’s finest red table wines, have invited a dozen bulls to run through their vineyards this coming harvest season. The idea is to tempt and taunt them with ripe red grapes, not lunatics racing through narrow streets. Experts suspect the lack of violence will not draw much media attention, but the Riojanos are trusting that their more humane version will nonetheless please wine critics, who typically favor red wines that are “strong like bull.”

The Pinot Grigio Cooler. Move over, Poland Springs: there’s a new hotspot over by the Xerox machine. It’s the brand new Pinot Grigio Cooler. Spawned by Italy’s largest cooperative, the nifty twist-tap dispenser holds five full gallons of pale, light-bodied, mild but crisp vino and is guaranteed to please the workers in any midsize corporate office who have not yet been fired. That is, except the snobs who crack jokes about preferring Pinot Noir; those guys deserve a “rosé slip.”

The National Rifle Appellation. Who says Midwesterners are sloooooow? Wineries in the recently minted American Viticultural Area known as the Upper Mississippi River Valley are moving quickly to promote their huge swatch of prime vine land. Hoping to build momentum since the TTB-approved 29,914-square-mile AVA was announced derisively in several online wine outlets earlier this month, a group of producers has just struck a deal with the National Rifle Association to make Upper Mississippi River Valley wines the official tipple of the NRA. “We wanted to start off our new PR campaign with a bang,” said vintner Jed Lowbarrel, who grows grapes in all four of the states covered by the AVA. No word yet on whether packing heat will help the wines get 90-point ratings, but considering that UMRV reds are typically made from French hybrids such as Marechal Foch, Frontenac and Saint Croix, don’t expect them to score much better than wines from east of the Mississippi.