Going To The Dogs

Wineries turn to dogs to sniff out flawed bottles

When you think of wine faults, you may think of that wet-dog smell—one of the classic signs that something’s gone wrong. However, some winemakers don’t shy away from dog with their wine. Instead, they’ve trained dogs to identify wine faults such as TCA (aka:”cork taint”).

Inspired perhaps by bloodhounds or, more ominously, bomb-sniffers, a small handful of cellars have employed dogs trained to detect TCA in their wines. Take, for example, Australian winemakers Michelle Edwards and Daniel Fischl who have trained their seven year old bloodhound, Miss Louisa Belle, to sniff out tainted batches of their wine Linnaea.

The logic behind the decision seems sound. While expert human tasters can detect TCA in miniscule concentrations—as low as one part per trillion—dogs have an even greater capacity to detect smells. Humans have about 6 million olfactory receptors; dogs have up to 300 million. That increased smelling power helps dogs detect odors that a human smeller usually can’t.

In case you were wondering, TCA (2,4,6-trichloranisole), which can also smell faintly of wet dog, is a chemical compound found in some corks and transferred into wine from a tainted cork. Estimates of how many wines suffer from cork taint range from less than one percent up to five percent of wines. All types of wine—white, red, sparkling—can be affected. (It’s no wonder that winemakers have adopted some creative solutions for identifying the chemical in their bottles!)

What are the most common “unpleasant” smells you have experienced in wine? Tell us below.

Going To The Dogs

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