What Is Wensleydale Cheese?


We don’t all get excited over cheese, but David Hartley is one of the exceptions. Hartley has spent a lot of his time and energy on trying to get Wensleydale cheese granted a so called geographical protected indication, although winning an exceptional cheese award is almost as good.

You may well be wondering what is Wensleydale cheese? The distinctive and much loved cheese has been made in the beautiful Yorkshire dale of the same name, since the 12th century when French Cistercian monks discovered its unique flavor. The pale colored crumbly cheese is said to be best enjoyed with bread or oatcakes and has been described as having a refreshing acidity and a grassy tang. One traditional way of eating Wensleydale is to eat tiny slivers of it along with another traditional British food – Christmas cake.

A protected geographical indication, or status, means that the food or drink can only be given that name if it actually comes from that region or country. A better known example of this might be champagne, and true champagne can only call itself by that name if it comes from the Champagne region of France. Another example is Whitstable oysters, which have to be harvested in the Kent town to be so named. In 2010, Hartley announced that the Wensleydale creamery – the only surviving creamery making the cheese – had made it to the last stage of its bid to win a protected geographical indication. At the same time, Hartley was awarded the exceptional contribution to cheese at the World Cheese Awards.

Hartley put together a management buyout in 1992 to save the Wensleydale creamery after plans to close it down were met with an outcry. Today, the creamery employs about 200 people and helps to keep over 50 local farmers in business. You may also be asking yourself does Wensleydale cheese really taste that good, as well as what is Wensleydale cheese? Hartley may be biased of course, but he will lovingly describe the cheese as lovely, fresh and beautiful. Of course, the only way to be sure is to sample it yourself.