Interview: Kylie Minogue, Princess of Pop and Pink Prosecco

After publicly interviewing Kylie Minogue at ProWein, Robert Joseph had the chance to talk to her, one-on-one, about the background to a wine and wine cocktail range, launched in 2020 with Paul Schaafsma of Benchmark Drinks, that has sold 8m bottles in under three years.

Reading time: 9m 44s

Paul Schaafsma, Kylie Minogue and Robert Joseph at ProWein.
Paul Schaafsma, Kylie Minogue and Robert Joseph at ProWein.

A lot of exhibitors have expressed their respect to you for turning up to a massively crowded trade fair like this. As one said, that’s basically that's not what celebrities do.

How many celebrities will be here next year?


That's a neat answer. But, let's be honest, it isn't necessarily the easiest thing for you or anybody in your position to do because you have got all these people around you.

It's been intense with paparazzi and that kind of thing. But people have been great. I really found it a very nice welcome. And now, I'm just I'm a little bit “Get on that plane tonight and just think. We did it”.


I am one of a smallish number of people in the wine world who've always been positive about celebrity wines in general. What fascinates me now, though, is where does it all go from here? There is a danger of everybody having a wine. And no one can stop that. How do you maintain your edge?

It's a really valid point and one I'm acutely aware of because I've been through this after going into the perfume market, which then became saturated, and who cared in the end? Same with lingerie. There was a gap, which I recognised because I'd done things as a face of other brands. And we smashed it. And then we just got priced out and it all became too difficult.

So we've got to nurture our plot and really take care of it. Everything we've done so far, I think, will give us the best shot. With quality. With authenticity. You know, I've been very open since the beginning, which thankfully, was the only way to go. To say “I know this might seem implausible, this might take a bit of getting used to, but I'm here for it. I'll accept that I'm keen to learn.” So I think we've just got to keep on it. And not take our eye off the ball.

What has to evolve is the style, the quality and every eight or 12 months come up with something a little new, a little fresh. So maybe we'd love to do a little parcel of Champagne.

I just think that's so exciting. As part of the bigger picture of me meeting different people and beyond it being business. And I always appreciate this. This is Paul's [Schaafsma’s] business. I've got albums and concerts to do and other things. And he understands the wine business, but he affords me these little luxuries of the extra cost of putting things on the bottles for instance that you don't need, but they make us feel good about it.


Most people don't have any understanding of how celebrity products work. It seems there are two basic models. There is the one that says, here's a lump of cash. Can we have your photograph and your name and will you do a few appearances? And there's the other one in which the celebrity is more fully involved. My impression is that with these wines you've been involved in the whole project.

Now more than ever, authenticity matters. The consumer, before they see it, they smell it. They know it. You know, I had a bedding line once. We made something that wasn't there before. It was everywhere. Then I reached a point where I ran out of love for it. And that was part of my first conversation with Paul. I asked “You want to just put something in the bottle, with my name on it? I just don't know. I won't make time. I don't need to do it. It doesn't interest me.”


It seems to me that it’s almost as though there are two creatures. There's the Kylie Minogue who wakes up in the morning like everybody else with a headache and brushes their teeth and all the stuff the rest of us do. And there is this commercial entity ― a brand that can be attached to other brands. You've got a management team and all that goes with it. How do you say “Actually that is appropriate or this isn't?” because you must have had 110 other things knocking at your door to do.

There would have been points in my life where you things to cover your cost of touring… it is a means of doing other things for sure. I'm paying the bills. And, let's not forget, I started as just a working actor and you don't know where your next job is going to come from. But there's a middle ground. I normally travel by myself. And [seeing me] you’d swear it was a 16-year-old boy or a 90-year-old woman. I just get around like this. So there's a side of me that is super lo-fi.

This [ProWein] isn't the occasion to be super lo-fi, but yes, there’s that other entity. What's tricky is the person in the middle. But that's a whole other conversation.


Essentially, I'm interested in how you as a person deal with these things because you're actually building up more work for yourself in a sense as well.

I'm curious by nature. I like to discover things and challenge myself. And, you know, I was enjoying wine and I literally had that moment in Nashville [when Minogue casually wondered about what it might be like to have her own rosé] before meeting [commercial rights specialist] Jeremy Joseph and actively having a think tank day of potential brand planning ideas. They presented me with all this stuff. You could do that, or that or that or that. Sportswear. Laundry. Sunscreen. They're all looking for someone. And we're eyes and ears for potential brand partnerships. Looking at the Excel charts on the screen and going “what makes sense?”


Maybe a slightly more obvious question in a way is ‘the Australian bit’, because that's where it all started for you. It is very much part of your DNA that I guess most people are aware of too. How much does Australia fit into this project?

[The project] started with one [French] rosé. That was it. But we’ve moved on. Like my texting Paul to ask if we could do a zero percent, and that I’d love to have something Australian. It's not what we started with and it's not the heart of the brand but it definitely can be. And in the middle of Covid, when we were all locked down, Paul dropped off some of our samples and a note saying “I've included a Chardonnay.” A few days later, I tasted it and really liked it. So, when Paul came to collect something or make another drop-off, almost as an aside, I said, Do you think they’d do a wine with us? For us? He said, “I'll ask” and literally a day or two later I get a video from Jeff Burch owner of Howard Park in Margaret River… And now there’s a Kylie Minogue Chardonnay from there. So I'm sure it's not always that easy, and that there’s a lot of the duck paddling under the water to make these things happen.


Finally, let’s talk briefly about the zero-alcohol. I like the product and I like the fact it's a wine-based cocktail and not a de-alcoholized wine because those are rarely very good. If you walk around ProWein, there are a lot of zero-alcohol products . And it's a huge and controversial trend within the wine world because there are a lot of people saying, oh, no it's not traditional. It's not what people do. And one could argue that you've put yourself in a zone for which you could potentially become a sort of poster child. Are you comfortable with that?

I'm super proud of our zero alcohol rosé. But I've had that thought here. Wine has centuries of tradition. It's as old as time. And then you're making something in a sector that I guess traditionally hasn't been good. So people are already a bit sniffy about it. But it's a fact. I say that like I've known it forever, but I'm just learning from all this stuff that’s coming at me.

But there is that camera guy [a cameraman Minogue met at ProWein]. He simply said, “I don't drink. Thank you.”. So I don't know. I hadn't thought about being a poster child for it, but, maybe…



Kylie Minogue

Kylie Minogue started out in 1986 at the age of 18, playing a tomboy in the popular Australian television series, Neighbours, which made her name in her own country and in the UK where it was also shown. She won four prestigious Logie awards for her acting in the series, including the Gold Logie voted by the public as the most popular television performer. At the time, she was the youngest-ever winner. Her first release as a singer was Locomotion in 1987 which became the biggest-selling wine in Australian history and led to Minogue working with top UK songwriters Stock Aitken Waterman and having a series of hits including a string of number-one hits. In Britain, she was the first female solo artist to have a number-one album in five consecutive decades from the 1980s to the 2020s.

Minogue performed at the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympics and has received a number of awards, including being made a Chevalier of the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.

Apart from singing and acting in a number of movies, Minogue has been a regular feature in the world of fashion, having clothes designed for her by leading designers. She has successfully launched lingerie, perfume, and bedding ranges. Her wine range, created in association with Paul Schaafsma of Benchmark Drinks began with a single Provence rosé in 2020 and, since the addition of a pink Prosecco and a Zero Percent pink fizz, clocked up sales of over 8m bottles and several awards. In the year ending August 2022, Kylie Prosecco Rosé was the best-selling branded Prosecco Rosé in the UK, with £8.m ($11.1) of sales, 46% more than its nearest competitor. The Kylie range is now sold in 31 countries.


Benchmark Drinks

Benchmark Drinks, which was launched in 2018, describes itself as a “London-based distributor and brand developer”. Its founder and MD, Paul Schaafsma was previously general manager of the UK and Ireland for the Australian producer, McGuigan, and then CEO of Accolade, the world’s fifth-largest wine company. From the outset, Benchmark has focused on building a range of celebrity wines with names including Sarah Jessica Parker, the English cricket Ian Botham, chef Gordon Ramsey and musician Gary Barlow and TV chat show host Graham Norton.



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