18 Nov 2015

6. John Hill

It just had to be an Englishman who way back in the early sixteenth century planted the first vineyard on El Hierro. His name was John Hill and he came from Taunton in Devon. What he had come out here to do in what then must have been a godforsaken place is a mystery. Perhaps like me he just wanted to plant a vineyard. Or, more likely, he was running away from someone or something. Some historians suggest he was arrested by the Inquisition fifty years later for bad behavior but I think they are mixing him up with another adventurous Englishman, Thomas Nichols.

There must have been grapevines on the island before John Hill’s time: the earliest colonists came from winegrowing areas like Portugal and Spain  – why do we say winegrowing and not vinegrowing? They surely brought vines with them at least to plant outside their front doors. John Hill, however, saw what we would now call a “business opportunity”, but we don’t know if he made a fortune or simply drank himself to death.

We don’t really know where he planted his vineyard, either. The most likely place is somewhere near where the airport and port are now. At that time it would have had the best climate because the damp air and more frequent rain would have benefitted the vines. Diseases such as mildew and powdery mildew that thrive in such conditions had not yet been introduced. Wherever it was, he must have been held in certain esteem by the locals since they named a promontory after him: La Punta Juanil. And I’ve named my own wine after him.

1 comment:

  1. Me gusta mucho el tono de humor con el que te refieres a tu compatriota, John Hill