Wensleydale cheese

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.

Flavour and texture

Wensleydale is a medium cheese that is supple and crumbly. It has a slight honey aroma.

Common flavour combinations

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.
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'.
In Yorkshire and North East England it is often eaten with fruit cake or Christmas cake.


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. 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". Even after rationing ceased in 1954, cheese making did not return to pre-war levels.

Wensleydale Creamery

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 returned to Wensleydale.
Wensleydale Dairy Products sought to protect the name Yorkshire Wensleydale under an EU regulation; PGI status was awarded in 2013.

After 2015

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. In the financial year ending March 2017, the company sold 4,664 tonnes of cheese. 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%. 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.
Wensleydale Creamery has won many awards at The Great Yorkshire Show's Cheese and Dairy Show. In 2018 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. In 2017, the creamery had won 22 awards.
In mid 2019, an announcement indicated that cheese waste 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. Any whey residue remaining after the process will be spread in the area to improve the soil.

Current products

The main categories of cheese produced by the Wensleydale Creamery include:
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.
Cranberry Wensleydale is the standard white cheese with the addition of dried cranberries, and no wine or spices.