According to historical records, Wensleydale cheese was first created around 1150 by Cistercian monks who had settled in Wensleydale, Yorkshire, at around that time and set up a monastery. They passed the art of cheesemaking to local farmers’ who carried on the tradition after the monastery's dissolution in 1540. While Wensleydale-like cheese can be produced anywhere, authentic Yorkshire Wensleydale Cheese is a protected product, having been granted Protected Geographic Indication (PGI) in 2013.
Originally made from sheep’s milk, the production gradually transitioned to using pasteurized cow’s milk as the primary ingredient. However, many Wensleydale cheese varieties still use some amount of sheep’s milk.
Wensleydale is a medium cheese, ranging from semi-soft to semi-hard, with a buttery and rich but crumbly texture. Most often matured between 3 and 6 months, it’s slightly sweet with a honey-esque aftertaste but with a noticeable acidic tang. The more the cheese is matured, the more robust and nutty it becomes.
Often Wensleydale cheese is flavored with additional ingredients like dried fruits. Cranberries are the most popular option, but apricots, blueberries, pineapple, and lemon have also become popular over the years, along with honey, ginger, chives, and garlic. This type of cheese is sometimes referred to as Blended Wensleydale.