The Golden Elixir Treasure Hunt: Armchair Travel to France

The Golden Elixir Treasure Hunt

The Golden Elixir Treasure Hunt is a wine-themed game that has drawn some 25,000 active players since its launch in France in April 2023.  An English version of the game was recently released in November 2023, so English-speaking treasure hunters can now join the fun.

The treasure hunt is likely to appeal to people who love wine, enjoy riddles, and/or have an affinity for French history and culture.

What is the Golden Elixir game about?

In short, players need to solve six riddles designed by the Count of Saint-Germain. By solving these riddles—related to immortality and wine—they can pinpoint the precise location where the treasure is buried.

The first one to do so will win an estimated $110,000 worth (more than 3,600 bottles) of wines currently displayed at Chateau de Vaux le Vicomte for the duration of the hunt.

(The historic 17th-century chateau, built by French finance minister Nicholas Fouquet, is a living museum open to the public. It is located in Melun and is only a short distance from Paris by car.)

Entrance to Vaux Le Vicomte
Entrance to Vaux Le Vicomte (credit: Jerome Levine)

Among the bottles in the treasure chest is a bottle of Domus Maximus 2000 (estimated to be worth $6,000), voted the best wine in the world in 2005. 

The winner has the option of taking their prize in wine or cash.

Who developed the game?

Etienne Picand, co-creator of the Golden Elixir Treasure Hunt
Etienne Picand, co-creator of the Golden Elixir Treasure Hunt

The game was created by two French brothers, Etienne and Guillaume Picand. 

When asked why wine is connected to the treasure to be found, Etienne noted:

“Wine is a unifying theme. It brings together all social classes in the world and has carried a universal message of sharing and fraternity for 2000 years.”

What inspired the treasure hunt? 

The French daily, LeMonde, suggests that Elixir d’Or was directly inspired by the book On the Trail of the Golden Owl, an addictive and still unsolved treasure hunt that launched in 1993.

How was the game’s treasure amassed?

The wines come from over forty French wineries. 

Wine cave at Chateua de Vaux Le Vicomte
Wine cave at Chateua de Vaux Le Vicomte

The cache includes bottles from the estates of George Lucas (Skywalker Vineyards) and John Malkovich (Les Quelles de la Coste), celebrity ambassadors for the project.

Who can play?

Players must be 18 or older, but the game developers explain that players need not have any knowledge of wine, nor do they need to travel to France. The search can be conducted from anywhere.

Some participants are individuals; others work as a team, playing with family, friends or colleagues.

How can someone join the hunt?

To participate, potential treasure hunt players must purchase three e-books (priced at $49.99), which serve as a guide to finding the treasure. The six riddles and pictures are on parchment paper.

The game sponsors have also set up a “hunting community” on Discord. If you are interested in playing, be sure to read the fine print.  (This post isn’t intended as an endorsement.)

Why does this all sound eerily familiar?

If it does, you may have read the story of Fenn’s treasure, a similar large-scale U.S. treasure hunt that ended in 2020. 

Forrest Fenn was a millionaire art dealer from Santa Fe, New Mexico, who hid a treasure cache of gold and jewels in the Rocky Mountains. It took treasure hunters ten years to find the buried treasure, and the contents were ultimately sold at auction by the winner for $1.3 million.

The Fenn treasure hunt was popularized on TV, in magazine articles, and in a self-published book penned by Fenn, The Thrill of the Chase: A Memoir

What are people saying about this game?

The French Minister of Tourism, Olivia Gregoire, has called the treasure hunt “a great initiative to promote our French destinations and vineyards.”

Dominique Auzias, founder of Le Petit Futé (a series of French travel guides), has described the game as “an invitation to travel, a way to (re)discover the riches of French heritage.”

If you’re game, read more about the Golden Elixir Treasure Hunt.

All photo credits: Etienne Picand, unless otherwise noted

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