Dried grape varieties
Sultanas are believed to originate from the Iranian town of Soultanleh, from which they get their name. Over thousands of years, the variety spread across the Middle East, southern Russia and western China. Vine cuttings found their way to Australia in 1867 via two sources – the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa and hot houses in England. It is the main grape variety dried in Australia and is harvested early in the season, with the process starting mid-February.
Raisins are among the oldest dried fruits known to man and have been enjoyed since ancient times. The name derives from the Latin racemus, which means 'a cluster of grapes or berries'. The Romans produced a raisin wine they called Acinatisius, and also used the fruit at their banquets. Raisin cakes are mentioned in the Old Testament.
Currants were cultivated in Greece, near the city of Corinth from which they derive their name. They are usually the first grape to be picked when harvest begins, and dry quickly in the sun due to their small size. One of the earliest accounts of fruit drying in the Mediterranean is by the Greek poet Homer during the period 900–800 BC. Currants were not generally used in Europe until the crusades, when they became popular as a valuable alternative to honey.
The Sunmuscat is a new variety first imported into Australia in 1974 by the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific Research and Industrial Organisation). It is now increasing in popularity with consumers and food processors because of its distinct muscat flavour.
Other wine and table grape varieties are also dried from time to time.