ROOTS OF WINE IN THE OLD CITY

December 10, 2014
ELIEZER SACKS more »

Baroness Philippine de Rothschild used to say: “Wine is a simple business really. Only the first 200 years are difficult.” After 167 years and 145 years of winemaking respectively, the Shor and Teperberg families are well on the way.

These two families began to make wine in the Old City of Jerusalem in the mid 1800’s. They along with Moses Montefiore, the most prominent visitor to Israel at this time, represent the true roots of Israeli wine which was later to blossom into the dawn of an Israeli wine industry.

MONTEFIORE

Sir Moses Montefiore visited Israel seven times. His wife, Lady Judith Montefiore, gave important information in her diary. She outlined there were no commercial wineries in Jerusalem early 1800’s, but there were numerous domestic winemakers, who provided wines for their family, friends and community. There were over twenty of these, but of course, the only two remembered are those that continue to exist today.

Moses Montefiore was impressed by the piety of the Jews in the Old City of Jerusalem, but appalled by the poverty. He thought that the inhabitants should work rather than just living off donations. He saw all the wild vines and olive trees on his travels and thought that Jews should return to agriculture. He outlined his vision in 1839. He bought the first land for use for agriculture and recommended that vines and olive trees were planted to give people a taste for it. He built the Montefiore Windmill which was a symbol of the connection between industry and agriculture. As a wine connoisseur, he was happy to receive wine as a token of respect from every community that hosted him. When he built the first Jewish neighborhood outside the Old City Walls he called it Kerem Moshe (Moshe’s Vineyard). This was the beginnings of modern Jerusalem.

SHOR

Rabbi Mordechai Avraham Galina made aliyah from the Ukraine in 1834 and settled in Safed. When he was made Rosh Yeshiva of Tiferet Yisrael, the family moved to Jerusalem.

His son Rabbi Yitzhak Galina realized they needed to earn a living. They had made wine in their mother country, so it seemed logical to start a winery but the necessary permissions were hard to come by. Fortunately he was able to use the license that was in his brother-in-law’s name, Rabbi Baruch Shor, who had died young. So the Galina-Shor family founded the first recorded winery in the Holy Land in 1848. It was called Eshkol and was situated in Haggai Street, in the Old City of Jerusalem. The cellar backed on to the Wailing Wall. A row of barrels was strategically placed, so that forgetful workers would not touch it by mistake!

The family changed their name to Shor and began producing wines and spirits. The wines were sweet from indigenous table grape varieties, harvested from Bethlehem and Hebron vineyards. The grapes were brought to Jerusalem by donkeys.

Daniel Rogov, z”l, the legendary wine critic, wrote that Rabbi Yitzhak had been inspired by Moses Montefiore’s vision. Whatever the folklore, the first harvest coincided exactly with Montefiore’s third visit to Jerusalem. Furthermore the first evidence of the winery appeared in the Census commissioned by Montefiore in 1949.

The second generation included the legendary Rosa Shor, a formidable woman, who in 1871 opened a wine and liquor store to sell the family wines.

After eighty years in the Old City, A & M Shor Bros Winery, as it was by now called, left to find a new home in Beit Israel, near Meah Shearim. The reasons were the dictate from the British Mandate that industry should leave the Old City and the Arab riots of 1929. In 1944 the winery was renamed Yikvei Zion, (Zion Winery).  

By the formation of the State, the family had grown and the brothers, Avraham and Moshe, decided to go their separate ways. Moshe and his son, Yitzhak, opened a new business in Tel Arza, mainly producing spirits and liqueurs whilst Yikvei Zion, continued to produce wine and grape juice. In 1958 the Tel Arza business split again and Hacormim, another winery branch of the Shor family, was formed.

The three Shor family wineries moved to Mishor Adumim in the early 1980's. Arza and Zion, under the leadership of Moti Shor and Moshe Shor respectively, (both seventh generation), increased production substantially and from the 2000’s onwards invested in quality and began to produce quality dry table wines. Arza employed a winemaker who had studied in France and Zion employed a well-known wine consultant. Furthermore, Zion Winery launched a small quality subsidiary called 1848 Winery, whose labels celebrate the generations of the Shor family.

TEPERBERG

In 1827, Rabbi Avraham Teperberg, born and raised in Odessa, fled to Austria to escape enlistment to the Russian Army.  He made Aliyah to Ottoman Palestine in 1850 and settled in the Old City of Jerusalem. In 1852 he began a business distributing wine and spirits. He found a ready market not only from Jews, but also from Christians looking for wine from the Holy Land. In 1870 his son, Zeev Zaide Teperberg, founded a winery and named it Efrat. This was the name of the route that the grapes travelled from Bethlehem to arrive for the harvest.  The winery was situated on Habad Street across from the Armenian Quarter, near the Zion Gate. Grapes were received from Ein Karem, Bethlehem and Hebron.

Efrat Winery moved out the Old City in the 1920's, to the Romema neighborhood in West Jerusalem. The wine and spirits distribution business was bigger than the wine production and the Teperberg family received the rights to produce spirits in the Sarona community founded by the German Templars. Unfortunately there were costly legal battles with Carmel Mizrachi, Israel’s largest winery, over the use of the logo of the two spies carrying a bunch of grapes and the new distillery venture was not a success. When the authorities allowed the import of alcohol, Efrat went bankrupt.

In 1950, after the founding of the State of Israel, Efrat Winery was re-established in the Mahane Yehuda area of Jerusalem by Menahem Teperberg, the fourth generation of the family. In 1964 they moved out of Jerusalem to Motza. The winery was reasonably small, mainly producing Kiddush wine and spirits for the strictly religious community of Jerusalem.

It was Moti Teperberg, the fifth generation, who expanded the winery and improved the image. He changed the name from Efrat to Teperberg 1870, hired an internationally trained winemaker and started to produce quality table wines at every price point.  In 2006, they moved to a new winery built on the Tzora Kibbutz in the Judean Foothills.

 

 

Jerusalem

TODAY

These wineries have grown fast in recent years. They still satisfy their traditional markets, but have taken impressive steps towards quality in the 2000’s. Teperberg 1870 is today the fourth largest winery in Israel and also the largest family owned winery. The sixth generation of Teperberg is already very involved.

Two of the Shor family wineries, Arza and Zion, are respectively the 5th and 7th largest wineries in Israel (as of the 2013 harvest). The 1848 Winery is managed by Yossi Shor, the eighth generation.

 Furthermore a small winery called Kerem Montefiore was founded to celebrate Moses Montefiore’s agricultural vision, his love for wine and his passion for Jerusalem. It was founded by the first Israeli Montefiores, the seventh generation, who made Aliyah from England. The Montefiore and 1848 Wineries are in effect new boutique wineries, committed to high quality, that pay homage to their families’ history. Both produce high quality wines.

The Teperberg Limited Edition, Arza Auteur, 1848 Special Reserve & Montefiore Kerem Moshe are wines which show the quality of these wineries with such a uniquely rich history.

So the names of Montefiore, Shor and Teperberg live on. It is true the founding of the Israeli wine industry is rightly attributed to Baron Edmond de Rothschild in the late 1800's. However the roots of Israeli wine go back to before then, when these special families, found a way to combine industry and commerce, agriculture and wine with faithfulness to their religion.

Eliezer Sacks is the editor and publisher of The Wine Route of Israel and owner of the Cordinata Publishing House

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