This is from the Courmet Cheese Club newsletter about Wensleydale....
From the northern county of Wensleydale, England, a few miles northwest of York, comes our second featured cheese. This region is also known as The Dales, and the name is practically synonymous with quality cheese-making. Cheeses originating from The Dales have their beginnings in Roman times. There may be justification in saying that William the Conqueror and other infamous figures of history enjoyed cheese made from the very same recipe as the cheese you are about to sample.
All cheeses bearing the name Wensleydale were originally produced from sheep's milk and briefly aged into a soft, moist, blue cheese. This changed by the middle of the 17th century when cows replaced sheep as the main source of milk for Wensleydale cheeses. Further changes ensued with the Industrial Revolution. Concomitant standardization and large scale factory-based production ushered in a major change to the character and style of Wensleydale. Its texture became harder, with no bluing and was sold quite young. By the end of World War II, there were less than a dozen farms left making Wensleydale.
To compound these less than enhancive alterations, in the 1950's the Milk Marketing Board began to lay out strict guidelines for cheese-making. These guidelines didn't take flavor or tradition into consideration but were based on percentages, yields and standardization. None of these are satisfactory criteria for producing full-flavored cheese. Unfortunately, the last few farmhouse Wensleydale cheese-makers threw up their hands in duress, with the exception of a lone creamery that continued to make the "real" Wensleydale. The Wensleydale Creamery holds the distinction as the only company in the world that still makes Wensleydale the way it was made for hundreds of years.
If you are ever in England, keep an eye out for the rare and delicious Blue Wensleydale cheese. The celebrated blue-veined Wensleydale requires six months to mature. It has a smooth creamy texture similar to Stilton but with a more mellowed flavor. Until the 1920's, Wensleydale cheese was almost entirely recognized as the blue veined cheese we now know as Blue Wensleydale. This original variation may be a bit tougher to come by. If you ever do find it, snatch it up and savor this historical treasure of a cheese!
Hand crafted, wrapped in muslin cheesecloth or wax, this delicious, creamy-white, flaky cheese is pure, natural and wholesome. The fresh milk drawn from cattle grazing in the sweet limestone Wensleydale meadows, and of course, eating the wild herbs growing in this area of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, gives this cheese its distinctive and extraordinary flavor. Designated an environmentally sensitive area, the use of artificial chemicals and fertilizers is expressly restricted in this region, ensuring an honest, completely natural composition of ingredients in each batch that leaves the Wensleydale Creamery.
Descriptions of White Wensleydale are somewhat paradoxical. It is firm but not dry or hard; creamy with a surface that is crumbly; slightly sweet but also tart in flavor. As a reward for cutting real Wensleydale, you always get some crumbs. It is sometimes described as having a nutty, buttermilk flavor complemented with a honey aftertaste, and the gentle aroma of cut grass. It has a fine curd, minimal texturing, and high moisture content. Wensleydale is usually eaten young, at about a month old. This cheese goes well with crisp apple and is traditionally eaten with fruitcake. It is said that eating apple pie without Wensleydale cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze!