Tell us a bit about yourself…
I’m Danny Edwards, I’m 37 and a Brighton native. I’m a geologist by training and spent a number of years working in Australian in the mining industry. On moving back to the UK in 2016, I started Great British Wine Tours and we’re now in our sixth year of running food and drink tours in Sussex, Kent and Surrey.
Where did the idea of Great British Wine Tours come from?
Growing up in Sussex – and as a teenager being the only one of my friends with a car – I had always enjoyed getting everyone together for a road trip and discovering more of the area. So when I was thinking about what was next for me career-wise, I initially looked at starting a small group bus tour of Brighton and the surrounding countryside.
It was while out on a walk one afternoon that I discovered a vineyard. I had no idea England had a commercial wine industry. After a few weeks of mystery shopping, I discovered that in fact we had huge number of vineyards and producers in Sussex, making excellent sparkling wines, each with very individual characters and located in stunning settings.
Owing to the generally rural location of the vineyards, you either need public transport or an unlucky designated driver to get there. This is when the idea of English wine tourism clicked into focus for me. Great British Wine Tours was born and we’ve been growing steadily ever since.
You’ve launched a new service this summer too?
Sussex Wine Routes is a first for the UK. It’s a new government-funded bus route that will run throughout the summer, giving easy access to stunning countryside and world-class vineyards in and around Ditchling.
Buses operate throughout the day, so you can hop-on and hop-off whenever the mood takes you.
You can explore the quintessentially English village of Ditchling, with its art and craft museum, quaint tea rooms and historic pubs. Located in a stunning setting at the base of the South Downs, Ditchling is also the perfect location from which to explore further afield, so for those feeling a little adventurous, you can take a stroll between our stops.
With your ticket, passengers receive a bus timetable, and handy map of the tour area with footpaths and routes marked. We also have a handy guide to Ditchling which is available on our website.
Sussex Wine Routes’ is designed and managed by Great British Wine Tours and the buses will run weekdays throughout Summer, with pick-ups and drop-offs throughout the day from Brighton, Burgess Hill and Haywards Heath railway stations.
Can consumers also book private or bespoke tours for groups?
In addition to Sussex Wine Routes, Great British Wine Tours also operate fully organised public tours on our vintage big red bus every Saturday between April and October. We also offer a number of food and drink tours throughout the season, For example. Our cheesemaker or Sussex smokers tours which are a very popular option fro this looking to combine a Sussex food and wine tour.
We also operate bespoke private group tours with pick up and drop offs across the South East. If you’re looking for a unique, foodie experience in Sussex, Kent and Surrey, Great British Wine Tours can help, from corporate days out, to birthdays, anniversaries and hen party celebrations.
Why have you chosen Ditchling as the launch area?
Sussex has the highest concentration of vineyards in the UK and Ditchling has the highest concentration in Sussex. Some of the best sparkling wines in the world are produced in this area, all with within 20 minutes of Brighton and just 40 minutes from London. Ditchling itself is a very special village, with so much to see and do, and its surrounded by the most glorious scenery. It’s a great starting point from which to explore the Sussex wine region.
What are the challenges in promoting and delivering accessible wine tourism in England?
We need more support for tourism initiatives and investment. This government grant has initiated a flurry of opportunities for local businesses in the form of Sussex Wine Routes. It’s proven that with even relatively small investment, we can see an exponential growth in opportunities for not just vineyards and breweries, but other related sectors including hospitality, accommodation, and retail.
Long-term, we need sustained, structured and well-funded investment so we can promote and provide convenient and accessible transport for those looking to explore the beyond the city limits.
With the ever-growing interest in local produce, are consumers actively looking for greater engagement with growers and makers?
It’s wonderful when you visit a restaurant and see a bottle of Sussex wine on the menu, and with 95% of the English wines you’ll see on a menu, you can actually visit the vineyard in person and meet the growers and winemakers involved. It’s an additional bonus that our growers and makers are crafting exceptional wines, cheeses and artisan foods. Who wouldn’t want to visit them and sample their produce in the place it was made?
What is your perspective on the Sussex PDO?
It’s fantastic that Sussex is being recognised as producing outstanding sparkling wines. PDO status guarantees a product’s origin, characteristics and reputation. Protecting and recognising the quality of Sussex wines is at the fore-front of the PDO status and is a clear indication of the continued expansion and growth of our Sussex wine industry, and the intent of growers here to protect the quality that is associated with the name.