The newsDesk speaks to Camille Glass, co-founder of new Sai Ying Pun bottle shop, Fresh Orgasmic Bottles (no, not a typo), about forging a unique place in the Hong Kong wine industry and making wine appreciation accessible.
There is little in the world we love more than a great glass of wine. Thankfully, there isn’t a shortage of that liquid goodness in Hong Kong. And let’s face it – not all of us are connoisseurs, and that’s perfectly okay. If it’s red or white and reads 13% ABV on the label, chances are we’ll drink it and decide whether we like it without necessarily having the proper jargon to describe its flavour profiles. More often than not, serious wine appreciation seems solely reserved for the cultural elite who use vocabulary that sanctifies age-old convention and criteria. But who says you can’t be a serious wine lover while still deviating from tradition, expectation and talking about wine on your own terms?
We speak to Camille Glass, the 30-year-old co-founder of new Sai Ying Pun bottle shop Fresh Orgasmic Bottles just minutes’ walk from theDesk in Sai Wan, about trying to inject new blood into the Hong Kong wine industry through curating bottles from small producers around the world that disrupt the boundaries of traditional practice and thought. And we know what you’re thinking – that name. “It’s a mouthful,” she herself admits, “I wasn’t feeling super comfortable at first.” But as, ahem, orgasms are just about as natural as it gets in the human world (if you’re lucky), so are the wines she sells. All ethically produced, her wines are produced in adherence to non-conventional wine-making practices that the mainstream modern wine industry has since deviated from.
“Either you get the stuff at 7-11, or there’s the really pretentious, pricey French wines. What I’m trying to do is to make wines accessible to everyone by taking away all the pretension.”
As a Franco-American who has worked in everything from pizzerias to Michelin-starred restaurants, Glass is uniquely positioned to fill a niche in an increasingly ‘stale’ industry that is largely dominated by two stereotypical ends of the spectrum, which are defined by face value and price with no ostensible in-between. “Either you get the stuff at 7-11,” she explains, “or there’s the really pretentious, pricey French wines. What I’m trying to do is to make wines accessible to everyone by taking away all the pretension.”
A lot of that process entails stripping back the lexicon that traditionally dominates wine appreciation. So that means instead of talking about tannins, palates and aftertastes, she’ll compare a wine at a tasting to, say, ‘Haribo gummy bears’ or employ words generally used to describe people so to make the wines more personal. “The little that I do know about the winemaking process is that grapes go through things like humans do,” she explains. If a certain grape had thick skin, or had to grow in harsh conditions, that will come through in Glass’ language. “When people talk about minerality,” she explains, “they’re simply talking about the taste of chalk and stone. And that connects to childhoods, memories.”
Fresh Orgasmic Bottles is the latest manifestation of Glass’ experiences in the vast world of the wine industry. But having worked a long while in the industry, at times, she too felt like an outsider. She recalls studying in the prestigious Ferrandi culinary school in Paris and attending oenology classes (i.e. the study of wines), only to be overwhelmed by the nitty-gritty technicality of it all. “I wanted to understand it so badly, but I didn’t at all,” she recalls. It wasn’t until she arrived in Hong Kong five years ago that she heard a particular wine being described in stark, honest and bodily terms, instead of couched in remote culinary jargon. “The wine tasted like blood,” she remembers with a chuckle. Unorthodox as that may have been, she tells us, “that was the first time I wasn’t trying to pull flavours out of it and just understood what the wine was about.”
With that epiphany, Glass came to the realisation that she could love and understand wine on her own terms, outside of the world of expectation and tradition. Her enthusiasm for wines that ‘make her feeling something’ continues to grow and it undoubtedly shines through in her quaint and homey nook on Fuk Sau Lane, lined with curated bottles on recycled shelves with none of them sporting a recognisable label. “It’s Camille’s collection,” she tells us, “there’s always a wow factor in my wines.” By specialising in small, artisanal producers from all over the world, her wines are disruptive in taste and tradition, as is her taste and approach to wine itself. “You need to shake some of the wines since they’re still fermenting in the bottle because there aren’t any added sulfites,” she says, “they taste like they’re alive and breathing. They don’t just taste like crushed raspberries.”
Through understanding that having a serious love for wine doesn’t mean you have to get academic, wordy and hoity-toity, Glass and Fresh Organic Bottles disrupt preconceived notions of what constitutes ‘good’ or ‘bad’ wine – throwing the rubric out of the window altogether. For instance, while many connoisseurs may instinctively turn their noses up at New World ‘aussie’ wines, Glass instead sees that “there are young and dynamic winemakers there, tired of the Old World ways and blending and mixing in the most insane ways possible.” Continuing, she tells us, “we need to break out of the norm and start deciding for ourselves.”
Though Fresh Organic Bottles has only been open since October of last year, Glass is setting her sights high in her journey to reshape how we experience and think about wine in Hong Kong, right alongside her co-founder, Larry Tang, and sister restaurants, Locofama and Sohofama. Soon, they’ll start custom labelling bottles so as to take away the ‘face value’ of the bottles and not allowing any space for prior bias before someone takes a sip of their fare. Glass is also dedicated to ensuring that her Fresh Orgasmic Bottles remains an ethical and sustainable business, not simply in the origins of her wines, but soon through distributing 10HKD of every purchase to various charities. Home delivery boxes and curated cases are in the pipeline as well, soon making Glass personal wine consultant to different households all over the city.
Fresh Orgasmic Bottles is Glass’ most ambitious venture in the wine industry yet. “I have put my whole self into it,“ she says, “I’m not a sommelier, but what I can say is that I’ve built an entire shop and it’s my career.” Reflecting on what she wants people to take away from her show, she tells us: “I want people to see that we’re trying as hard as we can to support young dynamic people all over the world, and that it’s always more than just food and wine. I just want to harbour as many young creative people as possible and do justice to them.” And having already built a vibrant community around her little SYP lane and beyond, Fresh Orgasmic Bottles is certainly one to watch as the Hong Kong wine industry continues to struggle to reinvent itself. theDesk can gladly vouch for their beautiful wines, and are lucky that it’s so close to us. Head on over and have a glass (or three) on us!
Camille Glass, in brief:
Name: Camille Glass
From: United States/France
Position: Co-Founder of Fresh Orgasmic Bottles
Location: Fuk Sau Lane, Sai Ying Pun