It is mind-blowing to me that so many people have known me — or at least, a public version of me – since I was a teenager,” says Kylie Minogue by phone from Paris, the bells of Saint-Sulpice church ringing loudly in the background. “My fans have seen me in many stages of life, through the challenges, highs and lows. They are my community and I’ve never taken any of this for granted,” she says. “It would be a very lonely place to have success and no one to share it with.”
It has been an incredibly busy past couple of years for Minogue, despite the pandemic. “I lost track of how long I did nothing, just going to the fridge 17 times a day, rotating the same three T-shirts and two track pants, and cleaning,” Minogue says of those early lockdown days, but panic set in and she decided to use that time to teach herself some new tricks.
Creating a makeshift studio at her home, complete with duvet for sound insulation, Minogue discovered her inner “techie”, learning how to record and mix the beginnings of her album Disco on GarageBand. She also developed a slightly “weird” obsession with collecting microphones. “I’m just loving my new one, a Telefunken 251. It’s the king of the crop,” she laughs. Now, she always travels with her “mobile studio”. “I absolutely love being able to record in my own time and on my own terms.”
She also decided to venture into the world of wine, working in partnership with Paul Schaafsma, founder of London-based Benchmark Drinks, to develop her own curated collection of wines sourced from some of the best vineyards in Europe and Australia. Although “the seed of the idea to have my own rosé,” says Minogue, was planted way back in 2017, while out to dinner on a balmy evening in Nashville, it wasn’t until the beginning of 2020, and the introduction to Schaafsma, that her “fanciful” idea came to fruition in record time.
Minogue and Schaafsma mapped out the beginnings of the collection in those first few months of lockdown, chatting between doorstep and pavement at her South Kensington home. He would drop off bottles of different rosés for her to try; she’d whip up label ideas on her laptop. “What was important and essential to me was that it translated as authentic,” she says of her role as Creative Director of Kylie Minogue Wines, where nothing is signed off without her say so, from the final blend that goes into the bottle to the design of the bottle itself.
Since Minogue quietly debuted her first Signature Rosé — on her 52nd birthday in May 2020 — Kylie Minogue Wines has sold over seven million bottles across 30 countries, from Denmark to Dubai, proving there’s a lot more “‘pop”’ to Minogue than being simply Queen of the dancefloor twirlers. “It still feels a little surreal to me,” Minogue admits. While the singer had no idea if people would be willing to give the wines a try, Schaafsma knew he was on to a winner.
“Having Kylie’s name on a bottle of wine is reassuring because she’s someone people know and understand,” he says. “If you consider that 93% of Brits will never go to a winery or see a vineyard, buying a bottle of wine at the supermarket can be daunting, but they trust Kylie and hopefully in buying one of her wines, and realising how good the quality is, I knew they’d want to come back for more.”
Now Minogue is on a mission to glam up the no/low alcohol market (predicted to be worth $10 billion by 2027) with today’s debut of her effervescent 0% alcohol Sparkling Rosé
She and Schaafsma took more than a year working with a leading German wine maker to research and refine the innovative new process behind making the 0%. Where most non-alcoholic wines are fermented with yeast and then sent through a spinning cone mechanism to strip out the alcohol — taking much of the fruity flavours out with it — the singer’s new no alcohol sparkling uses juice from organic Spanish grapes fermented with good bacteria, infused with the finest handpicked Chinese green tea buds and leaves.
“It has just the right amount of body and texture, where the fruit content is very satisfying and moreish, but not so sweet it tastes like Ribena. And it’s also only 22 calories per glass!” she enthuses knowing all too well the challenges of being constantly in the limelight.
Kylie Minogue Wines is now estimated to be worth a cool £19 million (Nielsen). Some fans are so avid they’ll queue for hours just to get a bottle, and a glimpse of the “five foot and a whisper” singer.
“To start a new venture in my fifties feels great, and to be at the helm is even better,” says the singer who inspired a generation of women to get their breasts checked after she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 37. After surgery and chemotherapy she was given the all-clear in 2006. “My determination is quiet, I don’t make too much noise about it, but it is strong.”
Despite all this, “music still is everything,” Minogue says. Following 2020’s chart-topping global hit Disco — which went straight to number one in both the Australian and the UK album charts on the same day — Minogue has started to record a new album, expected to drop later next year.
“I’ve worked in Melbourne, Brighton, London, Surrey, Croatia and recently Paris so far — and most sessions have been back in the studio which has been a true delight,” she says.
One of her co-writers and producers is Biff Stannard, one third of Biffco, the team responsible for The Spice Girls’ rise to fame with Wannabe, and a previous collaborator with Minogue on corkers such as In Your Eyes and Say Something. While she’s not giving too much away, she promise the next album’s “feel-good factor will be HIGH!”
She’s itching to get back out onto the road too. “Not being able to tour Disco was so frustrating but I’m immensely proud of the Infinite Disco livestream show we did during the second lockdown. It was weird, challenging, upsetting but also uplifting connecting with all those people (over 300,000 of them) around the world.”
Minogue recently popped up for an impromptu acoustic version of Can’t Get you Out of my Head at Coldplay’s stadium show in New Jersey and joined Jessie Ware on stage at Brixton Academy for their duet Kiss of Life (recorded after the pair became friends following the Australian’s 2020 star turn Ware’s Table Manners podcast). “I made an effort not to see her before the show so that our reaction and interaction would be genuine,” says Minogue. Next up is a New Year’s Eve show in Dubai and performing at Sydney’s Worldpride in February.
Late last year, Minogue decided to relocate from her long-term base in London back to her hometown of Melbourne. “I’ve got used to a traveller’s life so I will be away from Australia as often as I was away from home when I lived in London, but the big difference is that when I am home, I can spend time with my family, hanging with my nephews, catching up with friends. Even if I’m not there all the time, it’s a state of mind.”