IT is beloved by Wallace and Gromit and famous the world over – and now it has  been awarded official protection by the European Commission.

The Wensleydale Creamery, based at Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales, has finally won its long campaign for Protected Geographical Indication status for its Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese.

The early Christmas present means cheese-makers outside the Wensleydale area cannot give their product a similar name.

The Creamery will now add the PGI symbol to its packaging, reaffirming its true Yorkshire credentials and helping shoppers differentiate it from cheeses made in other counties.

Managing director David Hartley said his entire team had been thrilled by the news.

“Our heritage and provenance makes Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese taste truly unique and we’re delighted this is now officially recognised,” he said.

“We’d like to thank everyone for their support for our application, including our dedicated staff at the Creamery, our local community and of course our loyal customers in the UK and around the globe.

“There could be no better early Christmas present for the whole team here and it is a great platform to propel us into 2014.”

Foreign Secretary and local MP William Hague also praised the decision.

“Achieving PGI status means many things for Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese,” he said.

“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.”

Farming Minister George Eustice said: "It’s great to see Yorkshire Wensleydale join the growing number of British products registered under the protected food names scheme, especially at this time of year when the delicious cheese will be an essential item for the festive family cheeseboard.

“PGIs help to keep traditional recipes alive and make a valuable contribution to the local and national economy.”

The Creamery was relaunched with 12 staff in 1992 and now employs 225 people and gives tours to 150,000 visitors annually.

Wensleydale cheese has been made in the Hawes area since 1150, when monks settled at a monastery at Fors.