Thompson Seedless

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Thompson Seedless is the common california name for the seedless white grape variety sultana. It acquired this name from an early grower of the variety, near Yuba City, one William Thompson. Thompson Seedless is California’s most planted grape variety by far. Almost all of California’s Thompson Seedless is planted in the hot, dry san joaquin valley, with nearly two-thirds in Fresno county, the powerhouse of California raisin production. In 1960, almost 70% of all grapes crushed for white wine were Thompson Seedless, clearly indicating what made up the 49% of ‘other grapes’ then allowed in wines labelled as varietals. In the 1970s, Thompson Seedless was particularly useful to the California wine industry in helping to bulk out inexpensive white jug wine blends at a time when demand far outstripped supply of premium white wine grape varieties. Today, however, it is used mainly either for drying grapes, as material for distillation, or for grape concentrate to sweeten bottled waters or cold tea drinks.