Viento Zonda sounds far more dramatic than its technical term, foehn wind, and the scientific explanation is far less thrilling than the legend that surrounds it. The legend goes that a Huarpe Indian called Gilanco who lived in the Andes was such a great shot with his bow and arrow that he grew a head so big that he upset the gods. One day he went out to play in the wild and slaughtered every animal that wandered into his path with no incentive other than to show off. The god of animal protection, Yastay, got so angry with young Gilanco that he called Pachamama (mother nature) and asked her to punish him. Later that day when Gilanco was back in the village, Pachamama appeared in front of him and all the villagers as a large arrow in the sky and then the arrow splintered into a billion sand pieces which flew in a hot wind around the village, hurting the villagers and Gilanco with a hot dust storm that riddled the settlement for days. This same hot wind, the Zonda, happens again every time someone does something to upset Yastay or hurts animals unnecessarily.
Today we can explain the hot dusty zonda wind as the result of a change of pressure in the high Andes, but it sounds more fun to think of Pachamama blowing her fuse. The Zonda is unique to this part of the Andes mainly in San Juan but often reaches Mendoza or La Rioja and usually happens in Winter between May and November.
By Amanda Barnes
Published in the October/November 2013 edition of Wine Republic