Japanese couple Rié and Hirofumi Shoji make just one wine: Pedres Blanques. It comes from one of the most beautiful vineyards in the world, high up in the hills of Banyuls. It's planted mainly to Grenache, as well as some white varieties they have grafted - Carignan Blanc & Grenache Blanc.
"We like French wine, so that was a start: we wanted to stay in France. Then, when we visited Banyuls, we liked the vineyards and the town here, but also the quality of life."
People: Rié and Hirofumi Shoji
Place: Collioure, Roussillon
Varieties: Grenache, and they’ve also begun to graft some vines across to white varieties: the rare Carignan Blanc, Muscat, Macabeu and Grenache Gris
Wines: Click here
Did You Know? Before setting out on their own, they both continued to learn from other winemakers as much as they could while studying. Hirofumi worked with Cossard for five years, and Rié carried out internships with iconic Côte de Nuits domaines Domaine Hudelot-Baillet and Jacques Frederic Mugnier, Saint-Aubin biodynamic pioneer Dominique Derain—who Rié notes as a very kind man—as well as a harvest at La Vigne du Perron in the Savoie. She also went back to Japan for a year, to work in a Japanese winery named Suntory, but her heart remained in France.
"We knew we wanted to work organically, with as few treatments as possible. So we figured it would be better to work in Banyuls, where that would be possible. That was really important for us. We love Burgundy, but it’s cold, and it’s damp. It’s hard work to farm organically in that climate."
They were fortunate to find a vineyard high up in the hills, at 300m elevation, planted on schist and granite soils. Its name, Pedres Blanques, is the Catalan for 'white rocks;' the big boulders in the middle of the plot. While it might be on the contender list for one of the most beautiful vineyards in the world, these old terraced parcels are tricky to work, as they’re near-impossible to mechanise. The previous owner had been working conventionally, so they decided to let all the grasses grow, to repair the soil. So far, they’ve just been using a pioche tool by hand to remove excess weeds, but Rié notes the weeds are growing back with a vengeance, so they might consider ploughing next year.
The advantage of their location and climate is the dry air and the wind (although that said, the wind is so powerful that in extreme circumstances it can actually snap branches). This means that in a normal year, they only need to spray sulphur two or three times.