The Zonda or “witches wind” sometimes called the Huayrapuca and Viento Zonda is a wind that travels to parts of Western Argentina on the Eastern slope of the Andes, striking the wine regions of La Rioja, San Juan and Mendoza.
The humid air coming off of the Pacific Ocean moves over the high Andes Mountains in Chili and then rushes down into these areas wreaking havoc. Due to the humidity, it assists in creating snow over the winter months, thereby affording additional water to the South American Vineyards.
The Zonda has a tendency to drive people crazy. First, it has a strange whistling wind that is very eerie, next, it causes temperatures to rise as much as 50 degrees Fahrenheit and then frequently causes freezing temperatures to follow. It also travels in speeds from 25 miles an hour up to 120 mph.
Tremendous frost damage and raging wind can severely damage vineyards due to this phenomenon, something we in Arizona are very accustomed to. Usually occurring between May and November, the Zonda can last as little as an hour and as long as 12.
So beware, it you hear a whistling wind tonight, the Zonda may be coming for you.
If you like a dry Riesling or Albarino, you’ll probably enjoy a Torrontes from Argentina. For my class wine of the week I chose the 2016 Piattelli Torrontes, from the Cafayate Valley in Salta.
It had a very pale lemon color and 14% alcohol. The grapes for this wine are grown at 5900 feet! The nose and palate reminded me of a few of our local Arizona Albarinos.
The nose smelled sweet with lovely floral notes and tropical fruits such as lychee. The palate had a light creamy mouth feel, with refreshing flavors of vanilla, honeysuckle, grass and minerals. It was quite dry with medium acidity and the finish came in at around 35 seconds. 20% of the wine was aged in American oak. This complex wine will pair well with Asian and spicy Indian food. At around $16 a bottle, I felt it was a very good buy.
What makes Argentinian grapes so special is that they are subjected to the largest diurnal shift of the International wine growing regions. Arizona comes pretty close with our major temperature swings.
Take a close look at the photo on the bottle. It looks like it has Saguaro cactuses growing at the base of the mountains. These unique cacti are only found in the Southern part of Arizona and Sonora, Mexico, so it was quite surprising.
When I visited Argentina, I spent time in Mendoza and Buenos Aires, but never made it that far north to Salta. Next trip, (if there is one) I hope to go to Iguazu Falls and then visit Salta.
Sue Schurgin is the manager of Sedona Wine and Beer Tours. She is studying for her CSW and sommelier certifications.