Musician Kirk Pengilly of INXS fame talks exclusively to The Carousel about how he has forged an exciting new career as a wine-maker. His decision to launch KP Wine was, he says, the result of a love for Rosé that he shares with his wife, world surfing legend Layne Beachley.
The pair were, he admits, an unlikely couple when they were set up on a blind date 20 years ago by singer Jon Stevens but as they now celebrate twenty years together they can reflect on their enduring love story …. and now they can do that over Kirk’s very own glass of Kirk Pengilly Rosé.
Describing how they are both polar opposites, Kirk says: “I love the night-time and she love’s the daytime. She loves the ocean and big waves and I love waterfalls and swimming holes. She loves red wine and I prefer white wine. Then we found Rosé, which met in the middle. Anyway, we both fell in love and fell in love with Rosé as well.
“Now, nearly two decades later, I wanted to make a Rosé that celebrated our marital bliss.”
Here, Kirk shares how he first became the proud producer of what is a very fine Rosé from his KP Wine collection in the midst of COVID.
Kirk explains that he was determined his first ever Rosé would be bold as he’d noticed so many women added ice cubes into their Rosé glass, so he made the wine with the intention that if you did add an ice cube, the ‘flavour would continue to linger’.
Along with celebrating ‘marital bliss’ with Layne, launching KP Wine was another way to ensure Kirk’s ‘twilight years would be fun’ and it’s also proof that it’s never too late to swap your career and pursue your passions – even if you are a rock star!
A big thank you from me to Kirk for graciously sharing his story with The Carousel after we literally bumped into each other in a carpark, and I’d complimented him on his Rosé after trying it for the first time in the Herring Room restaurant in Manly, Sydney.
Robyn: “I’d like to welcome Kirk Pengilly, famous for producing some of the best music Australia has ever known as a member of INXS but now has become known for producing a very fine rose, too. Welcome Kirk.”
Kirk: “Thank you, thanks for having me.”
Robyn: “Going back a little bit, tell us about when Layne said to you – ‘What do we have in common that will keep us together?’ – what was the aim of that question?”
Kirk: Twenty years ago, Layne and I were setup on a blind date by the singer, Jon Stevens. It was a horrendous first date, neither of us were interested, we were both, at first thought, completely opposite. We just didn’t really have anything in common. I love the night-time and she love’s the daytime. She loves the ocean and big waves and I love waterfalls and swimming holes. She loves red wine and I prefer white wine. Then we found rose, which met in the middle. Anyway, we both fell in love and fell in love with rose as well.
Going forward a few years from that, Layne came on tour with INXS for a few weeks and on this one particular night, we performed in Santa Barbara and we pretty much came straight off stage and jumped on the tour bus to drive to LA. We arrived at the Hotel at about 3:am, went to our room but then had to wait up for our bags to get delivered. We’re waiting for a while and we switched the TV on and there was this show on called ‘Wife Swap’: they get these two couples and they actually swap the wives or swap the husbands and let them live in their lives for a couple of weeks or whatever. Crazy show. On the show, the woman that had been swapped out asks the faux husband, ‘What do we have in common?’ We laughed at the exchange between this couple. Then Layne asked me “So what do we have in common? What do you think will kind of make our relationship last?” and I said, “Rosé…”!
So, Rosé is a part of our lives, not that we’re alcoholics, but you know, we both love Rosé and over all those years, we’ve never found THE Rosé that we both really loved. So, one day a few years ago, we were staying with friends that live up near Byron and we were talking about Rosé and I said, ‘you know it would be fun to maybe make one, but I don’t know how we’d do it’. Mike, who we were staying with, had dabbled in wine-making, and about a month later, he called me up and said, ‘I found a wine-maker, we’re gonna do it!’. In fact, he actually found a pretty amazing winemaker, a guy called Rob Mack (Aphelion Wines) out of McLaren Vale and so the three of us formed a company KPWine and put out our first Rosé last year.”
Robyn: “Fantastic, that’s very exciting. So, it was actually sort of created in COVID!”
Kirk: “Yes, pretty much. It was a bit of a bummer because we had planned to all go over to McLaren Vale the first week of July, 2021, where the wine-maker lives, and do what we call ‘the blending.’ So, we ended up doing the blending via Zoom. Rob sent over a sample of each bottle, the grenache from old oak barrels, the grenache from stainless steel, and the mataro from the stainless steel and oak. Then we sat there and started blending it under Rob’s advice. I had to buy a big test tube thing to measure and all that sort of stuff. And the funny thing was, Layne and I had our bottles in the wrong order and we were blending it going ‘No, no, I don’t think so, I think maybe it needs more of that’ and then we went ‘Arghh, we have the bottles in the wrong order.’ So, we put them back in the right order then mixed them up the way it was meant to be and went ‘Yes, that’s it! The best Rosé we’ve ever tried.’”
Robyn: “Back in the days of INXS, would you have ever imagined yourself being described as a wine-maker?”
Kirk: “No, wine drinker but not a wine-maker! It’s been a lot of work and this is actually the first interview I’ve done about the wine so, thank you. I want to keep it small, boutique. Last year, we only had 200 cases, which is not a lot, and then this year we managed to squeeze out 320 cases. Basically, I’ve been door knocking and using relationships with chef friends and literally going to restaurants and asking if I can see the beverage manager or sommelier and trying to get him/her to taste it. It’s challenging and a lot of these hospitality people just don’t get back to you. We’ve managed to get our Rosé into about 20 venues predominantly in NSW. We’ve got a place in Adelaide, a couple in WA and we’ve got ‘Bistro C’ up in Noosa.” We have a list of all the venues on the website and also, it’s not available in any bottle shops, only from the website
Robyn: “And ‘The Herring Room’ here in Manly is where I tried it, which is why I wanted to talk to you. At the time I was with Lyndy Milan and Cathy Wagstaff when we saw your Rosé, tried it and it was just fabulous. We loved it!”
Kirk: “Thank you. The scary part with all this is it had to be really good quality and taste, for me to be comfortable putting my name to it. I believe we achieved that”
Robyn: “Would you describe your new role as full time or a side hustle? This being one of your creative outlets?”
Kirk: “Look, I’m not doing much musically anymore. I wanted to open up to opportunities in other things I could do – I’ve done music my whole life – so I want my ‘twilight years’ to be fun and try some different things that are creative in there own way. I created the bottle design of course… It does take up a lot of my time though.”
Robyn: “The bottle design with your moustache is clever! I can see your face through the bottle!”
Kirk: “Well that was the idea. We thought, if we become a bit bigger, we might do a competition where people do a selfie with ‘Kirk’ and you can line the bottle up (it’s better when the bottle is empty actually) so that the glasses are in the perfect place on your face. Then we can run a competition to win a lunch with Layne and me or something. It’s a bit of fun. But we’re just not big enough yet.”
Robyn: “I love the fact that it’s a love story. I love the fact that Layne has been involved in the trialling of the product, researching it and putting it together and producing a product from scratch!
Kirk: “Yes, Layne has definitely been a part of this and it has been a really fun but challenging and an interesting journey and we’ll keep at it and see how it goes.”
Robyn: “How would you describe your Kirk Pengilly Rosé?”
Kirk: “Our Rosé is full of aromatics and a lot of that’s to do with the Mataro. Hints of strawberries, blood orange and grapefruit and spice. It’s pretty dry and quite a bold drop when you drink it. I wanted to make it bold because I had noticed, especially a lot of women on a warm summer’s day will put ice cubes in their Rosé. That really kind of waters it down, so I wanted it to be quite bold so that if you did add ice, the flavour would continue to linger.
Robyn: “For those people who are thinking of putting themselves out of their comfort zone and starting a new venture that they’ve not done before, like you, what’s your advice to them?”
Kirk: “I think you have to be passionate about whatever it is you try and you must really want to do it, because it’s not easy. It’s a lot of work with the start-up of anything. Most of all, you have to believe in what you’re doing and be true, authentic and personally love the end product. This really applied to my life with INXS and our music. We always made sure that with the songs we created, we loved them and could listen to them over and over! When you’re in the studio recording, you listen to a song maybe 100 times or more and if you still love it after that, then that’s a good sign. So, I think with whatever it is you do, you have to be passionate about it and you have to be really proud with the end result.”
Robyn: “Well, you’ve given us a lot of joy with your music over the years and now the Rosé wine, so good luck with it and thanks for catching up with us today!”
Kirk: “Thanks Robyn, thank you.”
You can buy Kirk Pengilly Rosé and discover more about Kirk’s KP Wine here: https://kpwine.com.au/