Sultana raisins have a delicate and unique flavor and are especially noted for their sweetness and golden colour.
The sultana raisin was traditionally imported to the English-speaking world from the Ottoman Empire, hence the name sultana, from the feminine form of sultan. Turkey and Australia are major producers.
The sultana grape is cultivated in the United States under the name Thompson Seedless, named after William Thompson, a viticulturist who was an early grower in California and is sometimes credited with the variety's introduction. According to the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, the two names are synonymous. Virtually all of California raisin production (approximately 97% in 2000) and roughly one-third of California's total grape area is of this variety, making it the single most widely-planted variety.
Not all speakers of English in Anglo America make clear distinctions between different types of dried grapes (raisins, sultanas, currants), and golden-coloured raisins made from other grape varieties may be marketed as sultanas. In addition, virtually all California raisins are produced from the Thompson Seedless grape, even those which, because of different drying processes, are not golden like the traditional sultana raisin. The term sultana is not commonly used to refer to any type of raisin in American English; as most American raisins are from sultana grapes, they are called simply raisins or golden raisins, according to colour. The latter, which at least in colour resemble the traditional sultana raisin, are artificially dried and sulfured, in distinction to "natural" raisins. All non-organic sultana grapes in California and elsewhere are treated with the plant hormone gibberellin.
As well as serving as a snack food without further processing, sultana raisins are used in a variety of dishes and baking, such as in scones, often prepared by soaking in water, fruit juice, or alcohol. The sultana grape is even used to make white wine, in which capacity it is known for its 'sweet blandness'.