In 2006 nearly 3,000 tons of grapes were harvested by wineries under the ownership of the Shor family. This relates to over 6% of Israel’s total harvest (of wine grapes), which would put the combined Shor family wineries, in sixth place in size, after Carmel, Barkan, Golan Heights, Teperberg and Binyamina!
There are three Shor owned wineries, all situated in Haharuvim Street in Mishor Adumim, the industrial estate near Maale Adumim, east of Jerusalem. They are Arza, Zion and Hacormim Wineries. The owners and managers of each of these wineries all descend from the Shor family, which opened the first recorded winery in Palestine in 1848.
However, the statistics are misleading because much of the production is for grape juice and Kiddush (sacramental) wine. Their relative size would be smaller wine only was the criteria. However they still form an interesting, largely unknown part of the Israeli wine industry.
The story began when Rabbi Mordechai Avraham Galin made aliyah to Israel in approximately 1835 from what is now Belarus. After a few years in Safed, he was appointed Head of The Tiferet Israel Yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem.
In those days the Jewish population within the walls of the Old City was very religious but also very poor.
For this reason, his son Rabbi Yitzhak Galin, decided to open a winery in order to to gain an income. Wherever there are Jewish communities there have always been home based winemaking, since wine is essential for practicing Jews. Rabbi Yitzhak saw a market supplying the community resident in the Old City. He married the daughter of Aaron Shor, the owner of a wine store.and decided to adopt her surname in order make use of the permit they had from the Turkish authorities, allowing him to open a winery. The winery was known as ‘Shor Brothers’. It was situated in a cellar in Haggai Street in an alley backing on the Western Wall, near the Mosque of Omar. The alley led from the Damascus Gate ‘ one of the entrances to the Old City. Family members today relate that a row of wine barrels were placed along the part of the Holy Wall adjoining the winery, so that forgetful workers would not touch it by mistake!
The family operated freely for nearly 80 years along with other small wineries in the Old City, but apart from the Shors and Efat, all disappeared. Efrat, owned by the Teperberg family, was initially a retailer and distributor of wines and spirits, but later became a winery. Today it is the largest family owned winery in Israel and the fourth largest overall.
In 1925, the British Mandate, that had taken over Palestine from the Turks, decreed that businesses had to move out of the Old City. The Shor Winery then moved to Beit Israel, an area near Meah Shearim in Jerusalem. The new winery was built above a reservoir, which was turned into a large wine cellar.
They supplied sweet, mainly red wines, to the locals. The grape varieties were mainly Alicante (Grenache) and Carignan from Bethlehem and Hebron.
In 1940’s there was an edict that businesses could not be named after a family name. This was the first time Zion Winery (Yivei Zion) became used, but to the loyal consumers, the winery was still referred to as ‘ Avraham Moshe Shor’ . after two brothers running the business. However in 1947/8 as production and the family had grown, they decided to split the business. Avraham Shor stayed in Beit Israel, agreeing to produce mainly wine and grape juice. Moshe Shor began a business in Tel Azur in the outskirts of Jerusalem (near Atorot), focusing on production and selling of spirits and liqueurs.
The Tel Azur business later split into two and Azur Winery and Hacormim Winery were the result.
.Arza Winery is today managed by Mordechai (Motti) Shor. Hacormin is today managed by Yechiel Shor. His son Eli Shor is the winemaker. Three generations of the family currently work at Zion Winery. The Co-Chairmen are brothers Elisha and Peretz Shor. The manager of the winery is Elisha’s son Moshe Shor. The winemaker is Zvika Shor, who was handed down the job by his father, the previous winemaker.
All the wineries sell wine, grape juice and alcoholic beverages, has their specialities. Arza, the largest of the three, is mainly known for its grape juice and its best table wines are under the Charisma label. They are Hacormin sells Conditon and Kings Kiddush Wines. Conditon is a popular brand for the strictly religious, ultra othodox. Zion sells more table wine of late.
Each has tried to come to terms with modern needs. Arza employed Philippe Liechtenstein, who graduated from Montpelier University in France. He was for many years the winemaker at Carmel’s Zichron Ya’acov Winery. Hacormim’s winemaker, Eli Shor, recently participated in the Cellar Master Programe at Tel Hai College. Hoever the most progressive of the wineries is Zion.
They invested in new equipment including small temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, a pneumatic press and new small.oak barrels. They decided to purchase better quality grapes and y employed Arkadi Papikian as wine consultant. Dr. Papikian worked for Carmel at Rishon Le Zion and was winemaker of Dalton for a few years. He is now the most prominent winemaking consultant in Israel, much in demand by small & stat-up wineries. Zion Winery also rebranded themselves and launched a series of good value table wines. They gained an immediate reward for their investment by winning no less than four gold medals at the Terravino wine tasting competition.