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Dear Dr. Vinny,
I’m trying to recreate a medieval recipe for hair dye. It calls for white wine dregs. What exactly are dregs, and how do I collect them?
—Sarah, Toledo, Ohio
How interesting. I’ve never washed my hair with wine before, but now I’m intrigued.
The “dregs” refers to the solids leftover for winemaking, a nickname for what is typically called the “lees” during winemaking and “sediment” when it’s in the bottle (but keep in mind that white wines don’t typically throw a lot of sediment). The dregs are the dead yeast cells, grape seeds and skins and other solids that might settle to the bottom of wine tanks, barrels and bottles. While I’m sure there’s a lot of pigment in the lees of a red wine, I would think there’s much less in white wine dregs, which makes it a curious choice for a hair dye.
Lees, or dregs, play an important part in some winemaking choices. Winemakers might choose to extend the contact with the lees for added flavor and textures. There are also times a winemaker might want to separate the wine from the lees, and one gentle way to do this is a process called racking. To collect dregs, you’ll need to go to the source—find a winemaker who will save some for you. Good luck!
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