Dogs are incredibly multitalented. Not only can they be trained to find drugs, bombs, and bodies, but certain breeds can also sniff out malaria, bed bugs and other destructive pests, and even art smugglers. (They also make great cuddlers and therapy pets.)
Now, as Food & Wine reports, dogs in Chile are being taught how to identify tainted wine through a program called the Natinga Project. Wine barrel maker TN Coopers has trained five Labrador retrievers to detect natural compounds like trichloroanisole (TCA) and tribromoanisole (TBA). While these chemicals aren't harmful, they can cause “cork taint,” which leaves behind a musty aroma and diminishes the flavor of the wine.
Without the aid of a canine nose, these compounds have proven difficult to track down—even with advanced technology. Through the Natinga Project, the dogs can be “rented” out to other wineries that stand to benefit from the service of these very good boys.
At one winery that was experiencing problems with the quality of its product, a dog was able to detect traces of TCA contamination on a hose. However, when the problem persisted, the dogs were brought back once again. As it turned out, the dog was pointing to a small rubber ring attached to the hose, not the hose itself.
"The interesting thing is that the dogs were not wrong; it was a human mistake in terms of interpreting what the dog was trying to say," Guillermo Calderón, the marketing manager at TN Coopers, told Wine Spectator. “Their sense of smell is extremely reliable and rarely ever misses.”
News of the project has spread as far as California, and plans are in the works to someday bring the dogs to the U.S. To that effect, Calderón says, "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."
[h/t Food & Wine]