"Their sense of smell is extremely reliable and rarely ever misses," a spokesperson said.

Mike Pomranz
Updated February 20, 2019

The highly-attuned snouts of trained dogs are already used to sniff out other potential problems like bombs and drugs — so why couldn’t these canines be used to prevent one of the biggest disasters of them all… corked wine?

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The Chilean wine barrel maker TN Coopers has reportedly trained a team of dogs to hunt down potentially harmful compounds like trichloroanisole (TCA) and tribromoanisole (TBA) which are responsible for causing cork taint, according to Wine Spectator. Though, as the name implies, this tainting of wine which leads to undesirable aromas and flavors often comes from the cork, these same compounds can also contaminate barrels, infecting the wine at that earlier stage of production. So TN Coopers decided to take on some additional preventive measures — the kind that can be rewarded with doggie treats.

“The underlying principle is that dogs have a much wider olfactory threshold than humans, and thus can detect very small concentrations of specific compounds just by their sense of smell,” Guillermo Calderón, TN’s marketing manager, was quoted as saying. This skill can be especially helpful because isolating the source of these damaging compounds can apparently be quite tricky, even with the help of more advanced technology than man’s best friend. Calderón gave the example of the dogs’ ability to pinpoint a small rubber ring attached to a hose as the specific source of TCA contamination. “Their sense of smell is extremely reliable and rarely ever misses,” he added.

The Natinga Project, as the dog-training efforts are called, currently employs five Labrador retrievers —  Ambrosia, Odysé, Moro, Mamba, and Zamba — who work both onsite at the cooperage and can be hired out by wineries facing cork taint issues. Calderón told Wine Spectator that, eventually, similar pups might even arrive in the United States. “We have received a lot of positive feedback from Californian winemakers who come to visit us at the cooperage in Chile,” he stated. “I can say for now that we are training a new generation of puppies that will be able to carry on with this initiative for many years to come.” Can you imagine the rock star-like reception those dogs would receive walking off the plane in America?

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