For years Alex worked in TV as an Associate Producer. He’s worked with some huge names like Sir David Attenborough, Dr. Alice Roberts and even Len Goodman from Strictly Come Dancing. This job gave him the opportunity to work on Ray Mears Wild Britain. It was on that show that he got to explore the Weald, a fascinating place because the unique geology and geography means it has remained relatively unchanged since the Middle Ages. It is this same geology that produces such wonderful wine. He’s using his experience setting up documentary shoots all over the world to give people wonderful holidays in the UK. He speaks to Blue & Green.
In 140 characters or less – what is Wine Rides?
Wine Rides is a weekend break: You cycle to and camp on a vineyard. You drink great wine, eat local food & your tent is pitched for you
What was the driver for creating Wine Rides – what gap did it fill?
There are a lot of people who like the idea of camping but have felt let down by the reality.
That is an issue of managing different group’s needs.
Most camping in Europe happens in campsites where people are drawn together because campsite are cheaper than other accommodation.
As someone who likes the adventure of cycle touring, I realised it would be a lot nicer to camp on the vineyards we were passing by.
I’m a TV producer who has worked with Ray Mears and Sir David Attenborough, I knew I had the knowledge and skills to get it sorted. So that is what I set about doing.
I have found there is an untapped market for exclusive camping. Where other groups with different needs are excluded.
There is nothing wrong with other people having fun the way they want to have fun. It’s just that when you have had a very physical day in the saddle, you want to go to bed, when you want to go to bed. Not when a Spanish 16 year old stops playing his guitar.
Who does it primarily serve?
Everyone who is moderately fit, over 18 and likes wine. The age range we have found so far is from 24yrs old to 67 years old, although I am sure that range will increase. Most people are in the middle.
The greatest surprise of running Wine Rides has been the customers. I have been taken aback by how consistently lovely the people who come on the trips are.
What difference does Wine Rides want to make?
I really want to give the natural world a tangible value. People have busy urban lives and we have become largely cut off from nature.
Hayley and I have worked really hard to create a situation where anyone can enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Good food and great wine in the landscape it came from.
What are the barriers to making that difference?
There are the regulatory barriers. I am sort of agnostic about them. My feeling is that they just weed out a lot of the competition that aren’t really serious about doing what we do.
Another issue is that we live in a products oriented society:
When I studied to be a safari game guide I learned that you should take nothing but photos and leave nothing but foot prints, and that is how wine rides operates. As a result we are a service orientated business. But there are some people who want to see a lot of ‘stuff’ before they part with their cash.
We get around that by pursuing customers that understand quality and are willing to pay for service.
Who’s helping you overcome those barriers?
We have great support from Fraser-communications. They have really done a great deal to help a science and nature geek like me understand how normal people see the world and want to be spoken to.
However there is a lot more to do. The main thing now is to get to scale quickly. That is why we are courting investment at the moment.
We are hoping to raise finance to make some capital purchases that will enable us to reduce our costs and increase our effectiveness and I would be delighted to speak to anyone who would like to support Wine Rides by investing.
Regarding sustainability: cycling check, camping check. But is wine making a sustainable industry?
It could. I think it is important to think about peoples consumption habits and not just talk about production.
Wine is high value, none-perishable, and can be shipped rather than sent air-freight. So it is quite a sustainable way of consuming grapes.
In the context of a country like South Africa, the workers are also paid a fairly good wage, and have stable reliable incomes.
The elephant in the room is Alcohol: Alcohol is the most damaging drug on the planet. This is partly because it is the most popular and one of the only legal recreational drugs we have. None the less, I think it is important to acknowledge, that people should drink wine because it is fun. But that is best done at reasonably low volumes, in the company of others where you can benefit from the fact that it is a social lubricant.
Wine does well there because, it’s not that cheap. It’s crafted, every sip can be appreciated and above all for me, it creates stunning agricultural landscapes that enhance its enjoyment.
How can people – individuals and organisations – find out more about Wine Rides?
Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit the website winerides.co.uk
Or tweet me @winerrides