Finding use for food waste is a hot topic in the culinary world, so why not turn wine waste like sediment, lees and must into food? Well, it turns out there’s a long tradition behind just that, with some modern-day adaptations as well. Here’s what chefs and winemakers are cooking up.
Lees, the deposit of spent yeast after fermentation and aging, has a long history in Chinese cooking. The best known dish that uses it is a braised chicken from northern Fujian, which is used to celebrate birthdays.
As a marinade or braising liquid, lees add umami flavors. Many chefs reach for it to marinate steak and game meats. For example, Canadian Chefs Patrick Gayler (The Terrace, Mission Hill Family Estate, Kelowna) and Derek Bendig (Fairmont Chateau Whistler) collaborated on a lees-marinated venison dish at a James Beard House dinner to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday.
During the Greek trygos (harvest) from late August to November, chefs use moustos (grape must) in a variety of dishes. The unfiltered, unfermented juice from freshly pressed grapes is sometimes boiled to draw out the impurities, and then boiled again to reduce. The finished product is called petimezi, which is basically grape syrup.
In New York City, Greek restaurant Molyvos gets moustos from wineries including Gentilini and Papagiannakos. Carlos Carreto, the head chef, uses petimezi to add depth to keftedes (Greek meatballs) and texture to moustokouloura (cookies).
On his Viceland TV show, F*ck, That’s Delicious, and in his cookbook of the same name (September 2017, Abrams), chef/rapper Action Bronson mentions “one of the rarest things I have ever tasted.” While he visited Giampiero Bea of Antica Azienda Agricola Paolo Bea in Montefalco, Italy, he tasted madre de Sagrantino. It’s sediment from the bottom of a 30-year-old barrel of wine, which slowly becomes gelatinous, like a natural wine jelly, over time.
During that visit, Bea’s wife made fresh pasta topped with the sediment. “Just a heavenly experience,” says Bronson.