Dogs can be trained to sniff out TCABy Lucy Shaw
While dogs have long been used by truffle hunters for their keen sense of smell, a Chilean cooperage has trained five clever pups to detect TCA in wine barrels.
As reported by Wine Spectator, five dogs – Ambrosia, Odysé, Moro, Mamba and Zamba – have been trained by TN Coopers in the Chilen town of Curacaví to sniff out TCA, TBA and other harmful compounds that make wine undrinkable.
Dubbed the Natinga Project, meaning “search of origin” in Zulu, the idea was inspired by sniffer dogs at airports.
But rather than drugs, the hounds are trained to seek out the compounds that lead to those distinctive TCA aromas of damp cardboard and musty cellars.
“Dogs have a much wider olfactory threshold than humans, and thus can detect very small concentrations of specific compounds through their sense of smell,” Guillermo Calderón, TN Coopers’ marketing manager, told WS.
“Their sense of smell is extremely reliable and rarely misses,” he added.
While corks get all the bad press, other steps in the winemaking process, including barreling, are vulnerable to contamination from airborne chemicals.
Wine Spectator reports that the quintet can also work their magic at wineries. One of the dogs recently pinpointed the source of TCA at a winery on a small rubber ring attached to an old hose.
TN Coopers is planning to offer its sniffer dog services to wineries in California and other wine regions in the US.
“We have received a lot of positive feedback from Californian winemakers who come to visit us at the cooperage in Chile. We are training a new generation of puppies that will be able to carry on this initiative for many years to come,” Calderon told WS.