Vin Santo wine is about as close as I'm likely to get to a religious experience. The Italian traditional wine - the wine of the saints - was made in small batches for family and church use for centuries. Many wine regions in Italy produce their own versions of Vin Santo, using a variety of local grapes. It didn't become a commercially exported product until the 1970s.
Grapes for Vin Santo are harvested by hand and hung from rafters to dry - this may take three months or so. Once dry, they are pressed and the juice is placed in small oak or chestnut barrels -caratelli - to ferment for up to 10 years, even longer. The wine is produced in sweet, dry or semi dry types.
The type I'm drinking - Borghi Vin Santo del Chianti 2002 - is a dry type, produced from a blend of 70% Trebbiano Toscano Bianco and 30% Malvasia del Chianti Tuscany. This dry white wine - brownish amber in color, actually - is a single vineyard and single vintage wine which is aged a minimum of three years in those little caratelli barriques. It's a strong wine at 16% abv.
It smells a lot like sherry to me. The alcohol is prevalent on the nose and the aroma of raisins cuts through the heat. On the palate, this Vin Santo tastes of dried fruit - not a surprise - and has a delicious sweetness, like caramel. It's a dry wine, to be sure, but it has a wonderful sweet edge to it. The finish lingers forever and leaves the sensation of an Irish whiskey, if you'll pardon the ethnic juxtaposition.
I may not buy much of what the Catholic church is selling, but drinking Vin Santo is pretty close to finding religion in a bottle.