Israel wine was in mourning last week with the passing of Moshe Shor z”l, who was taken from us well before his time. He was part of a chain in the longest family story in Israeli wine.
His great, great, great grandfather founded the Shor Winery in 1848 in the Old City of Jerusalem, alongside a Kotel Hakatan, the Little Western Wall, in the midst of Muslim Quarter in the Old City. This Haredi family spoke Arabic with their neighbours, served in the Israel Defence Forces and made wine generation after generation.
When the two brothers split the business before the founding of the State, Moshe Shor’s grandfather continued making wine, whilst his brother focused on spirits and grape juice. There are today a number of wineries owned by the Shor family: Zion, 1848, Arza, Hayotzer and Hacormin, but it is the Zion Winery that has made wine continuously.
The full story of Israeli wine over the last 170 may be told through the Shor family. They began by making sweet wine from local Arab grown varieties, in a domestic winery in those days. The wines were sold in casks. Today they are making international class, award winning wines in a state-of-the-art winery brimming with advanced technology. They grow noble grape varieties in high altitude vineyards, nurtured by Israeli viticulturists.
All the major developments of Israeli wine over the years, also occurred at the Shor Winery. These included the first use of glass bottles, use of labels firstly to provide basic information and later for marketing, the marketing of wine brands, introduction of bottling plants, import of New World technology, adoption of advanced viticulture.
However, of all the changes by the Shor family in 170 years of winemaking, no generation made the same leap forward that Moshe Shor made in the last fifteen years.
Moshe Shor was a tall, powerful figure whose manner conveyed dynamism, determination and focus, yet he also had a warm ready smile and radiated calmness. He was infatuated with technology, machinery and how things work. He would rarely be seen managing his business from some central office, as owners and CEO’s tend to do, but could usually be found bending over some new valued bit of equipment, checking it was working and trying to understand the nuts and bolts.
He invested in quality, built a technologically advanced winery that astonishes visitors and took the winery from the rarefied world of liquid religion (kiddush wine and grape juice) into the 21st century and the world of fine wine.
Zion Winery has grown to be one of the largest ten wineries in Israel and 1848 Winey, founded by his charismatic son, Yossi, has joined the ranks as one of Israel’s best small wineries.
When 1848 Winery launched its rare, prestigious Grand Reserve, a determined Moshe Shor had to leave hospital and travel to Tel Aviv Jaffa to play the pivotal part in the launch. He arrived only just in time and the pride was clear to all in his eyes and smile, as he removed a cloth to reveal the most expensive, prestigious wine ever produced by a Shor Winery.
He was a giant and a role model in business and in his community, but also in how he was seen by others. Moshe Shor will be sadly missed because of what he achieved, because of who he was and what he represented. His memory is a blessing.