The Wine Chronicle 《品醇集》



By Susan Lewis


Local authorities in the Pyrenees-Orientales region of France was said to have promised to re-examine the case of Japanese winemakers Rie and Hirofumi Shoji while granting an extension of their residency permits for at least three months.

Some 62,000 people signed a petition asking authorities to allow the couple to remain at their tiny vineyard in the southwestern village of Banyuls-sur-mer after being initially turned down for residency for earning too little money.

Their lawyer Jean Codognes told French news agency AFP that the local authorities seemed to have responded to the public’s anger and promised to re-examine their case while seeking more financial information on them.

The couple, who studied wine making before launching into production of organic wines in 2016, won high praise for their first vintage in 2017, with the 3-Micheline-star Can Roca restaurant in Girona among the prestigious eateries to snap up bottles.

But in April they were ordered to leave France after failing to prove they earned the minimum €2,000 a month required to show that the business is viable.

Defending the pair in the local L'Independant newspaper, the head of a wine fair in the nearby city of Perpignan had hailed their venture as a "real success". "It would be a real loss for us all to see them leave," Jean L'Heritier said.

Hirofumi Shoji, 38, fell in love with French wine when he began working in the 3-Micheline-star French restaurant Alain Ducasse in Japan.

He met his wife Rie in France after arriving separately in 2011 seeking to make their own wines. Both studied and worked with some of France’s leading winemakers in the Burgundy and Bordeaux regions before getting married and buying the vineyard together in 2016.

The couple are perfectionist artisan winemakers. They harvest the grapes by hand, growing them organically and fermenting the wine with natural yeasts.

Their red wine, Pedres Blanques (White Rocks), made from grenache grapes near Banyuls-sur-Mer in the French Catalan region of Roussillon, became an instant hit after their first release last year.

Their first vintage completely sold out, with 10,000 bottles quickly snapped up and the price surging from €12 to €26.

Everything was fine until they applied to change their status from “employees” to “farmers,” officials told them they would have to leave the country because they earned less than €2,000 a month and their business was “not viable.”

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