As you'd expect from a wine-centric destination, the selection of local vintages available at local cafes and restaurants is excellent.
Wine Primer: Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Thank geology for these luscious wines: when glaciers receded, they left a thick layer of galets scattered atop the red-clay soil; these large pebbles trap the Provençal sun, releasing heat after sunset, helping grapes ripen with steady warmth.
The Romans first planted vines here 2000 years ago, but wine-growing took off after Pope John XXII built a castle in 1317, planting vineyards to provide the court with wine. From this papally endorsed beginning, wine production flourished.
Most Châteauneuf-du-Pape is red; only 6% is white (rosé is forbidden). Strict regulations – which formed the basis for the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) system – govern production. Reds come from 13 grape varieties – grenache is the biggie – and should age five years minimum. The full-bodied whites drink well young (except for all-roussanne varieties) and make an excellent, minerally aperitif that's hard to find elsewhere (but taste before buying; some may lack acidity).