Wensleydale cheese

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Wensleydale cheese 2.jpg
Country of originEngland
RegionWensleydale, North Yorkshire
Source of milkCows (formerly ewes)
TextureMedium, crumbly
Aging time3–6 months
CertificationPGI 2013 (Yorkshire Wensleydale)[1]
Named afterWensleydale
Related media on Commons

Wensleydale is a style of cheese originally produced in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, England, but now mostly made in large commercial creameries throughout the United Kingdom. The term "Yorkshire Wensleydale" can only be used for cheese that is made in Wensleydale.[2][3]

Flavour and texture[edit]

Wensleydale is a medium cheese that is supple and crumbly. It has a slight honey aroma.[4][5]

Common flavour combinations[edit]

The flavour of Wensleydale is suited to combination with sweeter produce, such as fruit like sweet apples. A popular combination available in many restaurants and delicatessens is cranberry Wensleydale, which contains cranberries in the cheese.[6]

In Yorkshire, apple pie may be accompanied by white Wensleydale, giving rise to the saying "an apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze".[7]

In Yorkshire and North East England it is often eaten with fruit cake or Christmas cake.[8][9]


The Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes, North Yorkshire

Wensleydale cheese was first made by French Cistercian monks from the Roquefort region, who had settled in Wensleydale. They built a monastery at Fors, but some years later the monks moved to Jervaulx in Lower Wensleydale. They brought with them a recipe for making cheese from sheep's milk.[10] During the 14th century cows' milk began to be used instead, and the character of the cheese began to change. A little ewes' milk was still mixed in since it gave a more open texture, and allowed the development of the blue mould. At that time, Wensleydale was almost always blue with the white variety almost unknown. Nowadays, the opposite is true, with blue Wensleydale rarely seen.[11] When the monastery was dissolved in 1540, the local farmers continued making the cheese[12] until the Second World War, during which most milk in the country was used for the making of "Government Cheddar".[13] Even after rationing ceased in 1954, cheese making did not return to pre-war levels.[12]

The first creamery to produce Wensleydale commercially was established in 1897 in the town of Hawes. Wensleydale Dairy Products, who bought the Wensleydale Creamery in 1992, sought to protect the name Yorkshire Wensleydale under an EU regulation; PGI status was awarded in 2013.[1][14][15]

References in culture[edit]

Traditional equipment at the Wensleydale Creamery
Wensleydale with cranberries

In his essay "In Defence of English Cooking", George Orwell rates Wensleydale as second only to Stilton among British cheese varieties.[16]

In the popular 1962 novel Hornblower and the Hotspur (set in 1803) the title character makes "an epoch-making discovery, that Wensleydale cheese and port were a pair of heavenly twins".[17]

Author James Herriot makes frequent reference to Wensleydale cheese in his books including All Creatures Great and Small.

Wensleydale was one of the cheeses named by John Cleese in the Monty Python sketch "The Cheese Shop", which originally appeared in a 1972 episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus. In addition, the shop owner, played by Michael Palin, was named 'Henry Wensleydale', which caused some confusion between the two when the cheese was mentioned.[18]

In the 1990s, sales of Wensleydale cheese from the Wensleydale Creamery had fallen so low that production in the last dairy in Wensleydale itself was at risk of being suspended.[19] Thanks to the popular Wallace and Gromit clay-animated shorts A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers, and A Close Shave, the company survived. The main character of the series, Wallace, a cheese connoisseur, and inventor, mentions Wensleydale as a particularly favourite cheese. Animator and creator Nick Park chose it solely because it had a good name that would be interesting to animate the lip sync to rather than due to its origins in northern England where the shorts were set. He was also unaware of the financial difficulties that the company was experiencing.[20] The company contacted Aardman Animations about a license for a special brand of Wensleydale cheese called, "Wallace and Gromit Wensleydale", which proved to be an enormous success.[21] When the 2005 full-length Wallace and Gromit film, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, was released, sales of Wensleydale cheeses increased by 23%.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Denomination Information Yorkshire Wensleydale". OJEU. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  2. ^ Torrance, Jack (29 December 2017). "We'll go somewhere there's cheese, Gromit!". The Telegraph. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  3. ^ "The Wensleydale Creamery unveils seasonal Yorkshire Wensleydale & Cranberries packaging". Wensleydale Blog. 15 November 2017. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  4. ^ "Wensleydale Cheese". Lawsons Cheeses Direct. Archived from the original on 13 May 2008. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  5. ^ "Wensleydale Creamery - Artisan Cheeses". Wensleydale Creamery. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  6. ^ "Cheese.com: Wensleydale". Retrieved 23 August 2017.
  7. ^ "The Big Apple: "An apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze"". Barry Popik. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  8. ^ The rough guide to England (6th ed.). London: Rough Guides. 2004. ISBN 1843532492. OCLC 59321351.
  9. ^ Gundrey, Elizabeth (1992). Staying off the beaten track (12th ed.). Arrow. ISBN 0099864002. OCLC 655867327.
  10. ^ Rance, Patrick (1982). The Great British Cheese Book. Macmillan. ISBN 9780333486986.
  11. ^ Jenkins, Steven W. (1 January 1996). Cheese Primer. Workman Publishing Company. pp. 308–311. ISBN 978-0-89480-762-6.
  12. ^ a b "History of Wensleydale Cheese". Wensleydale Creamery. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  13. ^ "Government Cheddar Cheese". CooksInfo.com. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
  14. ^ "Uniquely Yorkshire". Yorkshire Post. Archived from the original on 3 January 2011. Retrieved 31 July 2008.
  15. ^ "EU Application for Yorkshire Wensleydale". Retrieved 16 April 2009.
  16. ^ Orwell, George (15 December 1945). "In Defence of English Cooking". Evening Standard. Retrieved 7 November 2017. I fancy Stilton is the best cheese of its type in the world, with Wensleydale not far behind.
  17. ^ Hornblower and the Hotspur, (ch. 9)
  18. ^ Cheese Shop Sketch, Monty Python (1972)
  19. ^ Waites, Mike (17 June 2006). "Wensleydale is big cheese in world awards". Yorkshire Post. Archived from the original on 26 November 2015. Retrieved 31 July 2008. In 1992 the 100-year-old creamery was in danger of closing, along with the threat that virtually all Wensleydale Cheese production would move out of its traditional home
  20. ^ "A Grand Day Out (1989)—Trivia". uk.imdb.com. Retrieved 31 July 2008.
  21. ^ Krumbach, Elizabeth. "Wensleydale". www.wallaceandgromit.com. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
  22. ^ Reardanz, Karen (15 November 2005). "Wallace & Gromit Boost Cheese Sales". SFgate.com. Retrieved 3 July 2008.

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