The district attorney’s office in California claims that bottles were taken from a vintner who unlawfully fermented wine in the ocean. According to Santa Barbara District Attorney John Savrnoch, over 2,000 bottles of wine and other alcohol from Ocean Fathoms were thrown away.
Several hundred thousand dollars worth of bottles were destroyed as part of a plea bargain struck into in July by business partners Emanuele Azzaretto (a diver) and Todd Hahn (a former talent agent). They owe an ex-investor $50,000 USD as well.
Due to the ideal temperatures off the coast of Santa Barbara, the company came up with the idea of underwater maturing of wine, where the bottles are kept in constant motion thanks to the pulsation of currents. Ocean Fathoms intended to release multiple times yearly and had interest from major Champagne houses in working together.
The district attorney’s office claims that Ocean Fathoms started sinking wine boxes just off the coast in 2017, but that they did not have the proper permissions from the California Coastal Commission or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to do so. Once a reef ecosystem had grown on top of the crates and bottles, the company retrieved them a year later, and Savrnoch said they sold them for up to US$500 per.
The tweet below verifies the news:
Bottles have been seized from a Californian winemaker that was fermenting the wine in the ocean illegally, according to the local district attorney’s office.https://t.co/sODRS53X5O
— The Drinks Business (@teamdb) August 15, 2023
Wine sold without federally approved labeling, an alcohol sales permit, or legitimate business license was “adulterated, and not fit for human consumption because it was submerged in the ocean and potentially contaminated,” according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Not only that, but it was also collecting sales taxes from customers but not remitting them to the state of California. The district attorney’s office also claimed that buyers were assured that the company would donate a portion of its revenues to a local environmental charity. However, they were unable to find any evidence that this had actually occurred.
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Savrnoch said: “This case involved individuals who operated with complete disregard for our consumer and environmental laws. The California Coastal Commission referred the case to our Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit and, because of the broad scope of violations, we investigated with the help of five state and local agencies.”
“The case highlights the importance of our office’s relationship with outside agencies and it demonstrates our commitment to holding companies and individuals accountable for violating all types of consumer and environmental laws.”
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