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 Wikimedia Commons

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

Flavour and texture[edit]

Wensleydale is a cheddar-like cheese with a supple, crumbly, moist texture, which resembles a young Caerphilly. The flavour suggests wild honey balanced with fresh acidity.[4][5]


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.[6] 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. When the monastery was dissolved in 1540, the local farmers continued making the cheese until the Second World War, during which most milk in the country was used for the making of "Government Cheddar".[7] Even after rationing ceased in 1954, cheese making did not return to pre-war levels.[8]

Wensleydale Creamery[edit]

The Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes, North Yorkshire
A Wensleydale Creamery stall at a 2014 Test match

Wensleydale Creamery in the town of Hawes has been hand-making cheese for more than 100 years. In May 1992, Dairy Crest, a subsidiary of the Milk Marketing Board, closed the Hawes creamery with the loss of 59 jobs. Dairy Crest transferred production of Wensleydale cheese to Yorkshire's traditional rival, Lancashire. Six months later, in November 1992, following many rescue offers, a management buyout took place, led by local businessman John Gibson and the management team. With the help of eleven members of the former workforce, cheese making recommenced in Wensleydale.[9]

Wensleydale Dairy Products sought to protect the name Yorkshire Wensleydale under an EU regulation; PGI status was awarded in 2013.[1][10][11]

After 2015[edit]

Tourists appreciate the quaint exhibits at the Creamery

The business moved to its current location in Hawes in 2015 and still handcrafts the eponymous cheese with a staff of 230. In 2017, the company made a £5 million investment in its dairy and cheese making facilities.[12] In the financial year ending March 2017, the company sold 4,664 tonnes of cheese.[13] The company estimated revenues of £27.5 million and pre-tax profits of around £1 million in their financial year ending in March 2018. Exports make up about 15% of the revenues and visits by tourists another 10%.[14] The creamery has become a tourist attraction, visited by up to 300,000 people each year.

In January 2018, the company appointed David Salkeld as its new Chairman, replacing Matthew Gribbin who was with the Creamery for ten years.[15]

Wensleydale Creamery has won many prestigious cheese awards, including Supreme Champion in 2018 for its new Yorkshire Cheddar at The Great Yorkshire Show's Cheese and Dairy Show. Yorkshire Wensleydale took the Reserve Supreme Cheese title. The company also received ten gold, four silver and four bronze awards and four Best of Category trophies.[16] In 2017, the creamery had won 22 awards.[17]

In mid 2019, an announcement indicated that cheese waste (primarily whey) from the Creamery, which makes 4,000 tonnes of cheese per year, would help heat 4,000 Yorkshire homes with renewable "green gas". The Leeming biogas plant will use anaerobic digestion to turn the waste into methane biogas which will be burned for conversion into electricity. (The plant was already using this process with dairy waste from an ice cream manufacturing facility.)[18][19] Any whey residue remaining after the process will be spread in the area to improve the soil.[20]

Current products[edit]

The main categories of cheese produced by the Wensleydale Creamery include:[21]

  • Yorkshire Cheddar
  • Yorkshire Wensleydale
  • Blended Cheese
  • Waxed Truckles
  • Blue Cheese
  • Traditional English (Kit Calvert style)
  • Smoked Cheese
  • Sheep's Milk Cheese

Real Yorkshire Wensleydale is usually shaped in a variety of weight moulds ranging in size from a small flat disc known as a "truckle" that is highly pressed and preserved in wax, to several larger cheeses—it is a mild cheese with an acidic, honeyed flavour. Mature Wensleydale is a harder, more highly flavoured version of the Real Yorkshire Wensleydale. Extra Mature Wensleydale is the strongest Wensleydale cheese, matured for nine months. Blue Wensleydale has blue veins and is produced in range of sizes. It is highly flavoured but less salty than the classic British blue Stilton. Oak Smoked Wensleydale is cold smoked to produce a cheese with a special tang and texture. Cold smoking typically involves lower temperatures in the smoking process. Winter Warmer is Wensleydale with mulled wine, cranberries and festive spices for the winter holidays.

Common flavour combinations[edit]

Wensleydale with cranberries

The flavour of Wensleydale is suited to combination with sweeter produce, such as fruit. A popular combination available in many restaurants and delicatessens is Wensleydale containing cranberries.[22]

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'.[23]

In Yorkshire and North East England it is often eaten with fruit cake or Christmas cake.[24][25]

References in culture[edit]

Traditional equipment at the Creamery

In his essay "In Defence of English Cooking", George Orwell rates Wensleydale as second only to Stilton among British cheese varieties.[26]

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" (ch. 9).

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.

Wensleydale appears in the "Cheese Roll Call" segment of the cartoon Pinky and the Brain He is voiced by Jeff Bennett

In the 1990s, sales of Wensleydale cheese had fallen so low that production in the last dairy in Wensleydale itself was at risk of being suspended.[27] The popular Wallace and Gromit animated shorts A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers, and A Close Shave had the main character Wallace, a cheese connoisseur, mention Wensleydale as a particularly favourite cheese. Animator 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.[28] The company contacted Aardman Animations about a licence for a special brand of "Wallace and Gromit Wensleydale", which proved to be an enormous success.[29] When the 2005 full-length Wallace and Gromit film, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, was released, sales of Wensleydale cheeses increased by 23%.[30]

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. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  4. ^ "Real Yorkshire Wensleydale". Wensleydale Creamery. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  5. ^ "Wensleydale Cheese". Lawsons Cheeses Direct. Archived from the original on 13 May 2008. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  6. ^ Rance, Patrick (1982). The Great British Cheese Book. Macmillan. ISBN 9780333486986.
  7. ^ "Government Cheddar Cheese". CooksInfo.com. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
  8. ^ "History of Wensleydale Cheese". Wensleydale Creamery. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  9. ^ McAteer, Owen (30 July 2008). "Cheese firm wins overseas contracts worth millions". The Northern Echo. Retrieved 20 November 2012.
  10. ^ "Uniquely Yorkshire". Yorkshire Post. Archived from the original on 3 January 2011. Retrieved 31 July 2008.
  11. ^ "EU Application for Yorkshire Wensleydale". Retrieved 16 April 2009.
  12. ^ "Wensleydale Creamery looks for more farmers". The Guild of Fine Food. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  13. ^ "Wensleydale Creamery back in profit". Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  14. ^ "We'll go somewhere there's cheese, Gromit!". The Telegraph. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  15. ^ "Former Arla CEO named chairman of Wensleydale Creamery". TheBusinessDesk.com. 18 January 2018. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  16. ^ "Wensleydale Creamery wins Supreme Champion Cheese at Great Yorkshire Show". Richmondshire Today. Richmondshire Today. 12 July 2018. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  17. ^ "THE WENSLEYDALE CREAMERY WINS 22 AWARDS AT THE GREAT YORKSHIRE SHOW". Wensleydale Blog. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  18. ^ Snowden, Ros (9 August 2018). "Iona expands green energy portfolio in Yorkshire". The Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  19. ^ "Cracking cheese, Gromit! Wensleydale waste to heat 4,000 homes". The Observer Guardian. Retrieved 16 June 2019.
  20. ^ "Cheese toasty! Watery waste from making Wensleydale cheese will help keep thousands of homes warm". Woman's Tale. Retrieved 16 June 2019.
  21. ^ "Cheese". Wensleydale Creamery. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  22. ^ "Cheese.com: Wensleydale". Retrieved 23 August 2017.
  23. ^ "The Big Apple: "An apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze"". Barry Popik. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  24. ^ The rough guide to England (6th ed.). London: Rough Guides. 2004. ISBN 1843532492. OCLC 59321351.
  25. ^ Gundrey, Elizabeth (1992). Staying off the beaten track (12th ed.). Arrow. ISBN 0099864002. OCLC 655867327.
  26. ^ 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.
  27. ^ Waites, Mike (17 June 2006). "Wensleydale is big cheese in world awards". Yorkshire Post. 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
  28. ^ "A Grand Day Out (1989)—Trivia". uk.imdb.com. Retrieved 31 July 2008.
  29. ^ Krumbach, Elizabeth. "Wensleydale". www.wallaceandgromit.com. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
  30. ^ Reardanz, Karen (15 November 2005). "Wallace & Gromit Boost Cheese Sales". SFgate.com. Retrieved 3 July 2008.

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