The Shor family is Israel’s number one wine family. Over 172 years ago, Yitzhak Galin (Galina) wanted to establish a winery. He was able to procure the license required by the Ottoman Authorities, from his brother-in-law , Baruch Shor. So he took over the license, changed his name to Shor and opened the earliest existing winery in Israel in 1848, in the Old City of Jerusalem. This was long before anyone had heard of Carmel, Baron Edmond de Rothschild, Rishon Le Zion and Zichron Yaacov Cellars! The winery was situated in the Muslim Quarter alongside the ‘Kotel Hakatan’ (the little Western Wall). Barrels were strategically placed along the wall, so someone would not inadvertently touch the Temple Mount. The first evidence of the family’s new profession appeared in the Montefiore Census, commissioned by Moses Montefiore in 1849.
The most well-known member of the family was Rosa Shor who opened the first combined wine shop & wine bar in the cotton market in the Muslim Quarter. The family winery remained operational in the Old City until 1925. Then, the British Mandate demanded that industry be moved out of the over-crowded Old City. The winery, by then known as Shor Brothers, moved to a new home at Beit Israel in Western Jerusalem. The same Rosa became the first female manager of a winery, taking over when her husband died before his time.
By the mid 1940’s, the family had grown, and the two brothers by then running the winery, decided to split the business into two, whilst continuing on the same site. As part of an agreement, Avraham Meir Shor continued producing wine at AM Shor Winery, which was renamed Zion Winery, and Moshe Shalom Shor undertook to make only spirits like arak, vodka and brandy as well as grape juice. His company was named Shimshon Winery.
Avraham Meir Shor’s descendants continued making wine through the generations at Zion Winery. This is the family branch, which has made wine uninterrupted for over 170 years, since 1848. Uniquely, from the beginning until today, a member of the family has always been the winemaker. Zvika Shor is the current winemaker, having taken over from his father.
Moshe Shalom Shor’s children returned to wine. His daughter Tzippora and her husband Yona Mendelsohn took on Shimshon Winery which after the Six Day War moved to Atarot. In 2006 the winery was sold and renamed Jerusalem Winery. Moshe Shalom’s sons started new wineries. Itzhak founded Tel Arza Winery and Yehiel, founded Hacormim Winery.
In 1982, the Zion, Arza and Hacormim wineries, all owned by different branches of the Shor family, moved to Mishor Adumim (near Maale Adumim,) not far from Jerusalem. There, they are all situated together in Haruvit Street. However in those days, they were mainly known only for inexpensive wine and liquid religion, in other words Kiddush wine and grape juice.
The first to lead a change to quality was Yossi Shor, the 8th generation, from the Zion branch. In the first decade of the 2000s, he planted new vineyards, founded 1848 Winery and appointed a talented French born, Bordeaux trained winemaker, Ilan Assouline.
In the second decade of the 2000s, Motti Shor and his son, Elhanan, owners of Arza Winery, followed suit. They appointed the well-respected Philippe Lichtenstein (ex-Carmel, Zichron Ya’acov Cellars) as winemaker and founded Hayotzer Winery.
The last to cross the rubicon was Hacormim, whose most famous product has up to now has been Konditon a sweet, sacramental Kiddush wine. In 2020, they launched a new brand called Shorr Estate, with the experienced Zvi Skaist (ex- Carmel, Barkan & Jerusalem) as winemaker.
As far as size is concerned, both Zion and Arza are today comfortably amongst the top ten largest wineries in Israel. The three parent wineries Zion, Arza and Hacormim combined, make something like 4.5 million bottles of table wine a year and arguably the same amount again in grape juice (made from wine grapes.)
However, it is their new wineries which illustrate that the Shor family, on entering their third century as wine producers, have adapted to the wine revolution around them. They are now making quality table wines. As if to emphasize the point, all three wineries won gold medals in Israel’s recent annual Best Value Competition.
1848 Winery produces wines that begin at 60 shekels. The labels celebrate the generations of the family. The wines range from the 2nd Generation label up to the 7th Generation. The flagship wine is the Special Reserve and there is a rare icon wine, Grand Reserve. The owner and CEO of 1848 Winery is Yossi Shor and the winemaker is Ilan Assouline. The slogan of the winery is “8 generations of winemaking.”
Hayotzer Winery produces wines that begin at 30 shekels. The word ‘Hayotzer’ means author. Most of the brand names have artistic or musical connotations. They range from Genesis (entry level), Virtuoso, Legato, up to Lyrica. The flagship is Auteur. The owner is Motti Shor, the CEO Erel Barkai and the winemaker is Philippe Lichtenstein. Their slogan is “Wine that inspires you.”
Shorr Estate Winery has so far launched two labels. Both have an illustration of a bull pictured on the label. The word ‘Shor’ in Hebrew means bull. The labels are Hello (entry level) and Grape of Joy. The idea of the word Shor spelt with two r’s, is taken from an old family logo. The owner/ CEO is Eli Shor and the winemaker is Zvi Skaist. The slogan of the winery is “A new generation of winemaking.”
The Zion, Arza and Hacormim Wineries represent the history of Israel’s oldest wine dynasty. Their new satellite wineries, 1848 Winery, Hayotzer Winery and Shorr Estate Winery, represent their response to the wine quality revolution in Israel. These new wineries with deep roots, have brought the Shor family into the 21st century.