French rally round Japanese winemakers threatened with deportation

Tuesday, 3. July 2018 - 9:15

The threat from French authorities to deport two Japanese winemakers is causing a stir in France, where a petition calling for them to be able to remain living and working in France has rapidly gained more than 20,000 signatures

Winemakers Rie and Hirofumi Shoji ‘s Pedres Blanques 2017 (White Stones), a natural red wine made from grapes grown on their vineyard in hills of Collioure, near Banyuls-sur-mer in the Pays Catalan, is served in prestigious restaurants including Celler C’an Roca and Le Verre Volé in Paris.  And 75% of their second vintage of the wine has already been reserved according to their lawyer, Jean Codognès. But now a court in Montpellier is scheduled to decide on their fate on September 6th after French authorities issued the couple with a deportation order in April this year.

Codognès, who described the case as ‘grotesque’ told Le Parisien newspaper:

“Experts in the [French] administration claim their vineyard is not economically viable; that they won’t have the means to survive even though the prices of their wines have shot up and even though they paid all their living costs and taxes and have invested €100,000 of their own savings in their vineyard and borrowed €50,000 from the bank.” 

Codognès said French authorities had accused the Japanese couple of not being able to make €2,000 per month from their wine.

According to local Catalan newspaper in Perpignan, L’Independant, Rie and Hirofumi Shoji have been living in France legally since 2011. 

The couple acquired a 3.5 ha vineyard in this hills of Collioure after Hirofumi Shoji studied viticulture and winemaking with the renowned natural wine producer Fred Cossard in Burgundy.

It is understood that their wine Pedres Blanques was made at Les 9 caves in Banyuls-sur-mer which is also a wine merchant and restaurant.

Local wine industry players including Jean Lhéritier the chairman of the Slow Food Pays Catalan organisation and runner of Perpignan’s natural wines fair and Les 9 Caves in the Pays Catalan have rallied around to support the winemakers.

“Their wine is exported internationally and sold to some of the finest establishments in Europe - the threat of exportation is incomprehensible,” said Lhéritier.
Barnaby Eales