A CHEESEMAKER is set to win a six-year campaign to protect Wallace and Gromit's favourite food.

Wensleydale Creamery, which first applied for protected food name status in 2007, is expected to be granted Protected Geographical Indication for Yorkshire Wensleydale by the EU early next year.

The status would mean only the Hawes-based producer, which employs 225 staff, and any future producers in a limited area surrounding the dale, could label their cheese as Yorkshire Wensleydale.

A Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) spokeswoman said the process had taken longer than usually expected because the creamery had switched from applying for Protected Designation of Origin to Protected Geographical Indication.

The former status requires a product’s character to be exclusively determined by its geographical environment where the latter status stipulates a product’s quality must be attributable to its area.

The Defra spokeswoman said: “Wensleydale Cheese is expected to receive protected food name status early next year.”

After having cleared European Commission examination, if no objections are received about the application, the yellow-white pressed cow’s milk cheese will be granted the same protection as Scottish salmon and Cornish clotted cream.

A spokesman for the creamery said it was delighted by the progress of the application.

He said the creamery, which was relaunched at the site with 12 staff in 1992 and now employs 225 people and gives tours to 150,000 visitors annually, was awaiting final confirmation of getting the status.

Hawes councillor John Blackie said: “It is absolutely brilliant news the application has got to this stage, no other imitations will be able to masquerade as the real thing.”

The firm had argued Yorkshire Wensleydale can only be produced in the area due to the cows grazing on Yorkshire Dales flora, the complex starter cultures and skills used to create the cheese, making it significantly different to Wensleydale cheeses produced in Shropshire and Lancashire.

The Yorkshire Wensleydale area will be based upon the traditional area in which the hand-crafted cheese has been produced.

Wensleydale cheese has been made in the Hawes area since 1150, when monks settled at a monastery at Fors and during the 1930s there were several key makers of Wensleydale Cheese who formed a trade association known as the Wensleydale Cheese Joint Conference.