Updated April 22
François-Henri Pinault said it felt like a blow to the gut; his teenage daughter had cried and his 82-year-old father mourned. The owner of Groupe Artémis and scion of one of France's wealthiest families was speaking to a Europe 1 reporter Tuesday following the shocking, extensive fire at Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. "We felt that it was an absolute obligation to rebuild this cathedral," Pinault said, announcing that his family would pledge €100 million ($113 million) toward the repair and rebuilding effort. "It is important that we are united around this symbol."
The Pinaults, whose vinous holdings include Bordeaux first-growth Château Latour, Burgundy grand cru monopole Clos de Tart and Napa's Eisele Vineyard, were among the most high-profile wine players who mobilized to the aid of the ravaged centuries-old avatar of French culture and heritage—but certainly not the only ones.
Bernard Arnault and his family's LVMH Group—including Champagnes Moët & Chandon, Krug and Veuve Clicquot, and Bordeaux Châteaus d'Yquem and Cheval-Blanc—immediately pledged €200 million ($226 million) "to the fund for reconstruction of this architectural work, which is a core part of the French history," the group said in a statement.
Sotheby's, Bordeaux first-growth Château Mouton-Rothschild and the Palace of Versailles announced that proceeds from a previously planned London auction on Wednesday of Mouton cases would go toward Notre-Dame repairs. The boxed sets of five bottles bearing different contemporary artists' work were created to raise funds for renovations at Versailles, but all parties agreed that the April 17 auction should benefit Notre-Dame. The 25-case sale brought in $983,000, Sotheby's informed Wine Spectator. "With funds from today's sale going toward the rebuilding of Notre-Dame Cathedral, each case more than doubled the opening bid," said Jamie Ritchie, head of Sotheby's Wine.
Stay on top of important wine stories with Wine Spectator's free Breaking News Alerts.
"Following the recent tragic events, we are honored to contribute toward the reconstruction efforts of this national landmark," said Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, chairman and CEO of Mouton owners Baron Philippe de Rothschild SA.
Some of the worst damage was to the cathedral's attic, an intricate lattice of oak beams constructed in 1220 to hold up the roof and help support the vaulted ceilings. Known as "the forest," much of it went up in flames.
So France's coopers, whose crafts are often employed in the construction of French oak barrels for winemaking, sprang into action as well. Charlois Group, a cooperage based in Burgundy that owns numerous wine barrel-making facilities, offered whatever timber and expertise it could spare for the upcoming repairs, which are expected to take years.
Some 1,300 ancient oak trees were harvested to make the beams. Now all that wood will need to be replaced. "It will take several years to purchase such an oak-tree stock without adversely impacting the wood sector and at the same time respecting the forestry production," the group explained in a statement, telling Wine Spectator that it is awaiting further instructions from the Notre-Dame restoration authorities. "This catastrophe has touched us all in France, but the surges of solidarity are so many that it warms our hearts," said director of communication Claude Jouot.