Wensleydale cheese PGI

William Hague (l) and David Hartley celebrate the granting of PGI status to Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese

Wallace and Gromit will rejoice: just in time for the Christmas cheeseboard, Yorkshire Wensleydale has become the latest UK food product to achieve protected food status from the EU, joining the likes of Melton Mowbray pork pies, Stilton and Cornish pasties.

The European Commission announced today it had granted Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status to the cheese, which it said dated back to the settling of Cistercian monks in North Yorkshire in the 11th and 12th centuries.

Under the PGI, Yorkshire Wensleydale has to be made to a traditional recipe in a clearly defined geographical area around the North Yorkshire town of Hawes. It is described as having a “creamy-white colour” with a “firm but forgiving flaky open-textured appearance”.

Traditional Yorkshire Wensleydale differs from other Wensleydales made elsewhere in that it has a softer and creamier texture and a creamier, softer and less acidic flavour, the PGI document states.

“Our heritage and provenance makes Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese taste truly unique and we’re delighted this is now officially recognised with PGI status”

David Hartley, Wensleydale Creamery

“The flavour of Yorkshire Wensleydale is more complex due to the unique starter cultures that are used in the cheesemaking process. The unique bulk starter cultures are selected for their ability to produce excellent and complex lactic flavours as well as a consistent and predictable rate of acid development. Because of the unique recipe of ‘Yorkshire Wensleydale’, it can be eaten as a young and fresh cheese or it can be matured carefully for many months to develop a rich and full flavour.”

David Hartley, managing director of The Wensleydale Creamery, said: “All of the team at The Wensleydale Creamery are thrilled that our cheese has now been recognised by the European Commission. Our heritage and provenance makes Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese taste truly unique and we’re delighted this is now officially recognised with PGI status.”

Foreign secretary William Hague, whose constituency is home to the Wensleydale Creamery, added: “Achieving PGI status means many things for Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese; it means more international recognition and more awareness of The Wensleydale Creamery, everybody can see this tremendous mark of quality and it commands national and international respect for this great product. Above all, it means that to be Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese, you really have to be Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese.”

Defra farming minister George Eustice welcomed the news and said the UK had “a wealth of food” that deserved to be celebrated. “The protected food name scheme is a great way to champion our favourite produce and preserve our outstanding heritage.”

During 2013, seven regional foods from the UK were registered under the EU’s scheme, including Fenland celery, Stornoway Black Pudding, Lakeland Herwick.