An unusually good year for grass in 2005 has produced a top quality supply of vintage cheese, say manufacturers in the West Country.

Richard Clothier, a third generation Cheddar maker from Wyke Farms, Somerset, said last year’s mild winter and wet spring had been ideal for grass and predicted more of the same in 2006.

“We have almost got conditions like New Zealand, where they have year-round growth.

It takes 10 litres of milk to make 1kg of cheese, so any subtle nuances in the quality of the milk are amplified in the cheese.

“The milk from last spring has made a very good mature Cheddar and some of it will be kept to produce a vintage Cheddar.”

Mr Clothier put a slice of Wyke’s 35% sales growth last year down to the top taste of the cheese, which has just been listed at the deli counter in all Tesco stores.

Devon cheese maker, Mary Quicke, who runs Quicke’s Traditional Cheeses, said 2005 was the best grazing year ever, with the cows being turned out on 26 January.

But figures from market researcher TNS Superpanel suggest vintage cheese consumption actually fell 2% in 2005, down to 32.3m.