Japanese winemakers face deportation from France despite making ‘exceptional’ red

A Japanese winemaking couple in France could face deportation, with French authorities saying that their business is not profitable enough... even though they have been credited with producing an outstanding red wine.

Japanese winemakers face deportation from France despite making 'exceptional' red
Vineywards in southern France. Photo: AFP
Rié and Hirofumi Shoji who live in the Pyrénées-Orientales department in southern France have achieved the impossible and impressed the French with their wine-making skills. 
But it seems that isn't enough for the local authorities.
On September 6th the administrative court in Montpellier is set to decide on whether the couple, who moved to France and set up a winemaking business in 2011, have to leave the country. 
Naturally the couple, both in their 30s (see below) who have trained in winemaking in Bordeaux and Burgundy, are worried at the thought that they will have to leave the business and land which they have built up over the past few years. 
Their wine, named Pedres Blanques, has received accolades from the French, becoming the star of the last Indigènes natural wine show. 
“In their case demanding that these two winemakers leave France, the authorities stress the lack of profitability of their company,” said their lawyer Jean Codognès. “These officials say that it is not viable, that they will not have the means to eke out a living.” 
“All this when they are up-to-date with their payments, when they have invested €100,000 from their personal funds and borrowed €50,000 from the bank — this case is topsy turvy!” said Codognès, who has unsuccessfully called for mediation on the matter, adding that he hopes common sense will prevail.
And he's not the only one shocked by the situation.  
“This wine? We could sell tens of thousands of bottles,” said Jan Paul Delliaas from the 9 Caves wine shop in  Banyuls-sur-Mer. “We don't even sell them anymore, we reserve them for our restaurant clients. We must not let Rie and Hirofumi go.” 
Author of a book about Rousillon wines Alain Potie claims the situation is indicative of a wider problem. 
“This case is ugly. It is the perfect example of what young winemakers making natural wines go through today. They have to burn the candle at both ends to create a sustainable economic model.”
And what do the couple say?
“If France does not want us, then we will leave.”

Member comments

  1. @Jan Paul Delliaas, if you could sell tens of thousands of bottles of this wine, then why don’t you??? It seems to me that you are part of the problem of their not being profitable enough.

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Cold snap ‘could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent’

A rare cold snap that froze vineyards across much of France this month could see harvest yields drop by around a third this year, France's national agriculture observatory said on Thursday.

Cold snap 'could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent'
A winemaker checks whether there is life in the buds of his vineyard in Le Landreau, near Nantes in western France, on April 12th, following several nights of frost. Photo: Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

Winemakers were forced to light fires and candles among their vines as nighttime temperatures plunged after weeks of unseasonably warm weather that had spurred early budding.

Scores of vulnerable fruit and vegetable orchards were also hit in what Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie called “probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century.”

IN PICTURES: French vineyards ablaze in bid to ward off frosts

The government has promised more than €1 billion in aid for destroyed grapes and other crops.

Based on reported losses so far, the damage could result in up to 15 million fewer hectolitres of wine, a drop of 28 to 30 percent from the average yields over the past five years, the FranceAgriMer agency said.

That would represent €1.5 to €2 billion of lost revenue for the sector, Ygor Gibelind, head of the agency’s wine division, said by videoconference.

It would also roughly coincide with the tally from France’s FNSEA agriculture union.

Prime Minister Jean Castex vowed during a visit to damaged fields in southern France last Saturday that the emergency aid would be made available in the coming days to help farmers cope with the “exceptional situation.”

READ ALSO: ‘We’ve lost at least 70,000 bottles’ – French winemakers count the cost of late frosts