Marie-Élodie Zighera-Confuron (hence MEZ, with Confuron her added-on married name) is on a mission to make great, ageworthy Beaujolais. Her family have been making wine in Fleurie for at least six generations, and the historic family name is Thevenet. There’s a lot of excitement about these wines, most of which are made for cellaring.
‘My great grandmother had a big estate of 80 hectares,’ she says, ‘all in crus.’ When her grandmother died her parents wanted to sell the estate. At the time is was 20 hectares of vineyard, all of which was going to the cooperative.
But when she was 15 years old, Marie-Élodie decided she wanted to use them to make wine. Her mother was an architect, and her parents told her that she must study wine before they take the vineyards from the cooperative.
So she studied in Mâcon. She began with a general diploma, and then when she was 18 she was allowed to study wine. She studied viticulture at Dijon for two years, and followed this up with an enology diploma in Montpellier, which finished in 2002.
In 2003 she worked a stage in Burgundy, at Château de la Tour in Clos du Vougeot. This was to prove pivotal in setting her winemaking goals for Beaujolais. [She has a strong link to Burgundy: her husband is Jean-Pierre Confuron of Confuron-Coteidot in Vosne-Romaneé.]
‘I wanted to make vinification in Château de la Tour with all the stems,’ she says. ‘[Michel] Bettane came along to the cellar, he talked a lot, and said who are you? I said I’m only a student. I explained I was from Beaujolais. He said you have a good vineyard, the wine is fabulous in Fleurie and Morgon, next week we make a tasting of Beaujolais.’ So the next week they tasted a lot of Beaujolais, including a 1911 Morgon from Chanson. ‘When I tasted this wine I knew I wanted to start now – it was one of my first motivations,’ says Marie-Élodie.
Her first vintage with the family vines was in 2006, and she just made Fleurie La Dot, leaving many of the grapes with the cooperative. But this was a period of reflection. ‘2006 was a hard vintage to start in, and the price was going down for Fleurie. So I wasn’t sure I wanted to make wine on my estate.’ But she persevered, and decided to make wines that were ageworthy. The first two were the Fleurie La Dot and Morgon Chateau Gaillard, using long maceration and long ageing before bottling.
For a whole she sold some of her wines to a negociant for cash flow. ‘I decided to stop this in 2015, and began a new wine, Fleurie Mademoiselle, which is semi-carbonic maceration, a very different style. The first two are vinified whole bunch but not semi-carbonic. It’s a blend of pigeage and infusion. Everything is done by foot.’
But even though she’s trying to make ageworthy wines, she’s still careful with extraction. ‘If you extract too much from Gamay it is full bodied and it’s easy to lose the fruit.’
It hasn’t all been plain sailing: In 2016 there were two big hailstorms in Fleurie and she only made 1000 bottles. There was hail again in 2017. Overall, she’s now farming 5.3 hectares of estate vines, but there are some family vineyards that are rented out, and some have been sold to buy out a brother. The potential is to grow to farm around 10 hectares.
Clos de Mez Mademesoille M Fleurie 2021 Beaujolais, France
No oak. Sweetly aromatic nose with strawberries and raspberries. Lovely texture and weight here with raspberries and strawberries and some dried herbs. Elegant and refined with sweet fruit but also a bit of spicy structure – just enough. Lovely fruit here. 92/100
Clos de Mez Mademoiselle M Fleurie 2022 (cask sample)
Lively, vivid and intense with nice tannins and some carbon dioxide. Lively with lovely fruit and a tangy edge, showing purity and ripeness. Very stylish and should be really good. 92/100
Clos de Mez Fleurie La Dot 2020 Beaujolais, France
La Dot isn’t a climat, just a name she gives to the wine. Nice sweet core here with lovely cherry and strawberry fruit, and nice ripeness. There’s a core of sweet fruit with nice depth, showing sleek, ripe black fruits and some softness around the edges. Has a nice fine texture and some spicy hints. Very expressive with generosity and depth. 93/100
Clos de Mez Morgon Chateau Gaillard 2018 Beaujolais, France
This is one of the climats of Morgon. Granitic soil. Keep grapes in juice, no destemming (she doesn’t have a destemmer in this estate), press with a little bit of sugar then finish fermentation in the vat. Half in old barrel, half in vat, then blend to vat for another year (this is the same as Fleurie La Dot). This comes from 80 year old vines. Intriguing nose with a hint of reduction. Lovely palate with sweet black cherries and blackberries, showing nice softness around the edges and a core of slighlt salty, mildly spiced black fruits. 93/100
Clos de Mez Morgon Chateau Gaillard 2017 Beaujolais, France
‘I love this vintage because it is not a full ripeness,’ says Marie-Élodie. ‘There was a big hail storm.’ Fresh and aromatic on the nose with sweet red cherries and spice as well as some raspberry notes, as well as a touch of green. The palate is elegant and refined with lovely fine spiciness, some complex green herbal notes. It’s open with a spicy phenolic note and some pepper and herbs. Some grip on the finish. 93/100