Deportation threat to Japanese winemakers causes outcry in France

The case of a Japanese winemaking couple facing deportation from France has caused an outcry in the country.

Rie and Hirofumi Shoji (pictured) make a red wine from their 3.5 hectare vineyard near the pretty seaside town of Collioure near Banyuls in Roussillon.

Having lived in France legally since 2011, the pair trained in Burgundy for several years before being able to acquire their own domain in 2016. Remarkably, their early efforts have led to widespread acclaim and won them many enthusiastic supporters.

Called ‘Pedres Blanques’ (‘White Stones’ in Catalan) the wine is made ‘naturally’ using Grenache and the first vintage (the 2017) has already been picked up by numerous restaurants including the Michelin-starred El Celler de Can Roca over the border in Spain and Le Verre Volé in Paris.

Local wine shops are lucky to receive even a tiny allocation, small amounts have found their way to several other countries including the US and Denmark and 75% of the not-even-produced 2018 vintage has already been reserved according to reports.

Nonetheless, back in April French authorities issued a deportation order, saying that they do not consider the vineyard economically viable; the suggestion being that the pair could become burdens on the state purse should they struggle to pay their taxes etc.

The couple are fighting the deportation order and their lawyer was quoted in the French press as saying: “Experts in the 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.”

He argued further that the Shojis have shown, for many years, that they have a clear and coherent plan and have not benefitted from state subsidies. Locals involved with the local on and off-trades have been widely quoted as saying what a “shame” and a “great loss” it would be to the area if the Shojis were made to leave.

Other commentators have pointed out that the Shojis can hardly be the only winemakers in the region to not be hugely profitable.

‘If France does not want us, we shall leave,” the Shojis are reported as saying. They are, apparently, shocked by the decision.

The case is to be heard by a judge in Montpellier this September. A petition calling for the couple to be allowed to remain in France has so far received over 25,000 signatures.

4 Responses to “Deportation threat to Japanese winemakers causes outcry in France”

  1. Mister Bill says:

    This is clearly a racial issue and decision. The French government should be ashamed of this action. But it’s understandable that the arrogant French would pull a sham like this. Best of luck to this hard working couple and their future.

    • Jacques says:

      If all French are arrogant maybe we should call all English ignorant. Please avoid those sort of prejudice that undermine any of your arguments.

      • Anna Vienna says:

        I agree with you Jacques. Rash, careless and casual use of wording can lead to hurt and misunderstanding.
        This kind of shabby treatment of hard working people like Rie and Hirofumi Shoji happens all to frequently in all countries. UK, USA, everywhere. It’s disgusting and shameful.
        I’m sure it’s some crazy bureaucratic misunderstanding.
        Good luck to Rie and Hirofumi Shoji in the future.
        Bon chance…

  2. Don R says:

    This also happened in Spain, you have to do more paperwork and get a lot obstacle as the local winemaker. I have made experience in 2001 – permit was refused as the wine was to good and they don´t need foreign people making better wines. Now the locals make better wine and we try again and fighting since one year to open a new bodega – but we will get it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please note that comments are subject to our posting guidelines in accordance with the Defamation Act 2013. Posts containing swear words, discrimination, offensive language and libellous or defamatory comments will not be approved.

We encourage debate in the comments section and always welcome feedback, but if you spot something you don't think is right, we ask that you leave an accurate email address so we can get back to you if we need to.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Supply Chain Assistant

Speciality Drinks
London NW10 7SF, UK

On-Trade Regional Sales Manager

Anthony Byrne Fine Wines
West Midlands & Northants

Supply Chain Co-ordinator

Speciality Drinks
London NW10 7SF, UK

Logistics Team Leader

Speciality Drinks
London, UK

Key Account Executive

Berkmann Wine Cellars
London, UK

Assistant Operations Manager

Speciality Drinks
London, UK

Technical Manager

North South Wines
West Drayton, UK

Key Account Manager

MMI Maldives


Eurowines Limited
Harrogate, UK

Business Manager - Impulse

Australian Vintage
Croydon, UK

Exclusive Masterclass: Chablis on Tour

London,United Kingdom
29th Apr 2019

Vinexpo Bordeaux

13th May 2019

London Wine Fair 2019

London,United Kingdom
20th May 2019
Click to view more

The Global Grenache Masters 2019

Deadline : 26th April 2019

The Tuscan Masters 2019

Deadline : 26th April 2019

Click to view more

The Global Riesling Masters 2018

View Results

Rioja Masters 2018

View Results

Click to view more