Diane de Puymorin left a corporate career in Paris to found a wine estate in southern France. A lifelong overachiever, she studied the terroirs and selected the very best for her new home: Domaine de la Petite Cassagne in the Costières de Nîmes. Renaming the estate after her family crest, she nevertheless kept the original name of the property for a second label that she would dedicate to her most approachable, unpretentious wines. She lost no time in establishing herself as a leader of quality, with her wines among the best in the appellation.
The vineyards of La Petite Cassagne, which have been worked organically for years and are now in the conversion phase for an official certification, are in the area known as Saint Gilles. The combination of drastic diurnal temperature shifts, vigorous winds, and a soil of alluvial stones gives impeccably balanced wines, and Diane is campaigning to have this unique terroir recognized with cru status.
After finishing a degree in Agronomy, the talented and passionate Diane de Puymorin set out to slowly elevate the image of Costières de Nimes, the southernmost appellation in the Rhône Valley. Believing the soils to have the pedigree to make great wines, she bought the Domaine in 1998 and changed the name to Château d’Or et de Gueules, a reference to the Puymorin family crest. She has since become a passionate advocate for terroir distinction within the appellation, and has recently proposed changes to the INAO to gain recognition for the soils around St. Gilles on her labels. With the help of her husband, Mathieu Chatain and their five daughters, she creates charming, spicy reds, as well as vibrant rosés and whites.
Diane farms 50 hectares to the southwest of the old Roman city of Nimes. In between St. Gilles and Générac, not far from the salt marshes of the Camargue and the Mediterranean, the climate here is optimal for creating balanced wines. The vineyards are planted to Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Chardonnay, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Rolle destined for several different cuvées of reds, rosés, and whites. Southern and southeastern sun exposure ensures full ripeness of the grapes, diurnal temperature shifts keep the grapes cool, and the presence of the Mistral protects the natural acidity of the grapes and wards off pestilence and rot. The soils are composed ofgalets roulés, a similar rounded limestone alluvial gravel that is also found in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, insulating the roots from extreme temperature fluctuations. After years of implementing sustainable farming in the vineyards, Diane has recently become certified in organic farming. She prunes rigorously to limit yields, pulls leaves to create circulation between clusters, and plows to aerate the soils—a necessary part of organic farming.
The Costières de Nîmes consists of some 12,000 hectares under vine, of which only 4,500 are designated as AOC Costières de Nîmes. It is one of the few appellations of this size to have no distinction of terroirs through premiers crus let alone lieux-dits. Diane is currently spearheading an initiative with the INAO to designate an appellation extension of St. Gilles to her vineyards as well as other areas in the southeastern part of the appellation that share her soils. Once known for its excellent Mourvèdre, the designation would require a minimum percentage of the varietal to blends from this area as well as restricted yields. While the change requires two years of study before an INAO ruling, Diane’s passion and stewardship has already brought awareness to the quality terroirs of the appellation and helped elevate its standing in the marketplace.
At Domaine de la Petite Cassagne, sustainability is a comprehensive ethic that is infused into the vineyards, cellars and even shipping. She is one of the rare producers to be carbon neutral; she powers her winery entirely with solar energy and uses recyclable packaging and water-based inks on bottles and boxes.
Diane bottles three wines under the old Domaine de la Petite Cassagne labels, a white, a red, and a rosé— all of which are fermented and aged in tanks. This line was named after the old Domaine and was meant to reflect the traditional style of the appellation. While the yields here are just slightly higher than for Château d’Or et de Gueules, they remain significantly lower than the maximum permitted by the appellation- 40 hl/ha compared with the 60 hl/ha allowed.
- Vineyard Area: 50 ha
- Soil Type: Round Pebbles
- Varieties Cultivated: Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Chardonnay, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Rolle
- Annual Production: 250,000 bottles
- Country: France
- Winemaker: Diane de Puymorin