How can I preserve an intentionally wine-stained shirt?

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Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

I went to a grape stomp and we stained a t-shirt with our wine-soaked feet. Is it possible to keep the wine's color on the shirt? The stains on the other shirts turned brown after being washed.

—Michelle, Austin, Texas

Dear Michelle,

This is a fun twist. Usually people ask me how to remove wine stains, not keep them.

I’m not surprised the wine stain turned brown. Red wines get their color from grape-skin pigments called anthocyanins, which can change color as they interact with cleaning products.

Despite what a couple of my white shirts look like, pigments found in wine aren’t considered reliable wash-proof dyes. Natural dyes require the use of what’s called a mordant, or dye-fixative, to make colors last. I also found commercially sold “wine-dyed” shirts that actually mix only small amounts of wine with similarly colored synthetic, wash-proof dyes that will have more lasting power. You can try this next year, but it will probably stain the bottoms of your feet.

In my research, I found a method for using leftover bottles of wine as a dye, say, for some pretty cool wine-dyed napkins. Start by reducing the wine over heat by a third or more, and then submerge the fabric into the reduced wine for up to 24 hours, stirring it now and again. Take it out and rinse. The resulting color is usually a pale pink or mauve-like color.

—Dr. Vinny

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