Merlot is a red wine grape variety that is the second most-planted red grape variety in the world, after Cabernet Sauvignon. The grape variety originated in the Pomerol region of Bordeaux, France and is the predominant variety in most wines from Saint-Émilion and Pomerol. Merlot is widely planted in wine regions around the world, particularly in Bordeaux, where it has replaced white grape varieties in the Médoc and Entre-Deux-Mers regions. It is also popular in Northern Italy and the warmer areas of Southern Switzerland. In the United States, Merlot was widely planted in California and Washington in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but its popularity has since dropped in favor of other grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Pinot Noir. Chile is known for producing good-value Merlot based wines, particularly from the Apalta and Colchagua Valley regions. Merlot grapes are relatively large in relation to their pips and the thickness of their skins, making them less tannic than other red grape varieties. This characteristic makes Merlot wines smooth, rounded and easy drinking. Merlot grapes are often used to soften wines made from more tannic varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon.