A “dale” is a valley; Wensleydale is a valley cheese. I don’t know if valley cheeses have a bloodline that connects them like mountain cheeses do, but in Britain they certainly have common traits. A very loose curd—they flake and fluff when you cut them—and a crumbly texture are two. If I had one word to describe the flavor, it would be “understated.”
This is not a cheese that knocks your socks off, talks loudly or stands up to be noticed. That said, whenever I eat a piece, I inevitably reach for another. It’s mild, with a lactic tang, a soft, buttery edge and a fudgy texture.
Bronwen Percival, the cheese buyer at our source, Neal’s Yard Dairy, says, “Wensleydale does what it does extremely well. It’s not a profound cheese, but I’m not always in a profound mood.” Well put.